Victims and Villains

By Edward Opton

If you have been following Steven Brill’s current series of articles on Johnson & Johnson’s “antipsychotic” drug Risperdal, you have seen the story become a legal thriller, like a John Grisham novel, but one with living, breathing, real-life victims and villains—victims like Austin Pledger, one of hundreds, possibly thousands of teen-age boys who grew female-sized breasts while medicated with Risperdal. You will have read about alleged villains like Alex Gorsky, head of sales, promoted to CEO following his success in marketing the drug for use on two groups of patients who seldom were in a position to say “no”: children and elders in the grip of senility.

As a reader of our blog, you may already know that Johnson & Johnson is unique only in its prominence. In most respects it is typical of its industry. You may feel that the company’s intense—and highly successful—efforts to market Risperdal to restrain the behavior of children and the very old, the two groups that are least able to say “no,” was especially cynical.

But what are you going to do? What can you do?

We have some suggestions.

  • Read the remaining installments as they are published here. It may make your blood boil all over again. Emotion is the springboard of action.
  •  Think about how the Risperdal story fits into the larger picture. Risperdal is just one of several “antipsychotic” drugs. The antipsychotics are not the only problem psychotropic drugs. The complete story of how a pill gets into a child’s mouth involves a number of people. Think about the key actors and their roles. How can they fulfill their responsibilities without risking permanent damage to the children for whom they are responsible?
  • Tell your friends about Brill’s Risperdal series. Tell them face-to-face, and also via Facebook, Twitter, other social media, telephone, and e-mail. Most people will not read a 15-part series, but many will read what you write and listen to what you say, especially people you know.
  • Tell us you want to do something. We will send recommendations from time to time. We will not pester you. Contact us at


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