ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – An Albany man is claiming a drug he took as a child changed his life forever.
Two years ago, Shaquil Byrd received surgery to remove his female breasts. A big step after years of feeling insecure and self-conscious as a kid.
At the age of 9 in 2002, Byrd started taking a drug known as Risperdal for a severe mental health diagnosis. He stopped taking the drug in 2007.
Within a few months, his mom started to notice he was gaining weight, but didn’t think much of it. Byrd’s breasts were also getting larger.
Byrd was bullied and teased by kids at school and even noticed a milky substance coming from his nipples.
That’s when he went to an endocrinologist who diagnosed him as having gynecomastia, or abnormally large male breasts.
“Once I realized that I did have breasts, like actual breast tissue, it made me feel even more messed up,” Byrd said. “Because as a male, I’m not supposed to have breast tissue.”
According to litigation documents, the endocrinologist called Byrd’s gynecomastia one of the worst cases he’s seen in more than 25 years of practice.
He has since had his breasts removed, but says what happened to him has scarred him for the rest of his life.
His lawyer, Luke Malamood says when Byrd was prescribed the drug, the FDA hadn’t approved it to be used by children. Instead, it was a drug used to treat schizophrenic adults.
Doctors say Johnson & Johnson told them gynecomastia was a “rare” side effect, while studies showed it was something different.
“What they meant, was that it was going to happen to less than 1 out of 1,000 patients,” Malamood said. “In reality, they knew it was a frequent side effect and one that could happen to as many as 1 out of 20 or 1 out of 15 patients.”
Malamood claims a result, these facts didn’t get passed onto Byrd’s mom.
“I felt like they used him as a guinea pig to be honest,” Eugenia Jorda, Byrd’s mother, said.
While Byrd says this fight is a big step, he says it’s not the end of the road.
“At the end of the day, this lawsuit is not going to change the way I somewhat see myself.”
A communications representative from Johnson & Johnson issued the following statement:
We believe there is no evidence that RISPERDAL® caused any harm to this patient, who stopped taking the medication eight years before receiving a diagnosis of gynecomastia. We will continue to defend ourselves in this litigation.
Byrd’s case is just one of many filed against Johnson & Johnson involving Risperdal. Malamood said they’re waiting for a judge to decide on a dismissal motion from Johnson & Johnson. If it gets denied, then Byrd will go to trial.
This story was originally published by News 4 sister station NEWS10, a Media General Contributing station.