February 11, 2014
On February 11, 2014 a Chicago jury awarded $1.5 million to an autistic child who developed a severe case of tardive dyskinesia and tardive akathisia while being treated by psychiatrists with Risperdal and then Zyprexa between 2002 and 2007. The drug-induced disorder was diagnosed when he was fifteen years old and by then had become disabling and irreversible. Dr. Breggin’s trial testimony can be found here.
Tardive dyskinesia describes a group of persistent or permanent movement disorders caused by antipsychotic (neuroleptic) drugs including Risperdal, Zyprexa, Invega, Abilify, Geodon, Seroquel, Latuda, Fanapt and Saphris. In addition to typical tardive dyskinesia spasms and twitches of his face, eyelids, and tongue, the youngster developed a severe case of tardive akathisia involving torturous internal agitation that drove him into constant, unrelenting motion.
According to Ithaca, New York psychiatrist Peter R. Breggin, MD, a medical expert in the case, the boy was diagnosed with autism as a child and then started on SSRI antidepressants before the age of seven. He continued to be treated with the antidepressants Zoloft and then Paxil which caused his mental condition and behavior to deteriorate. Dr. Breggin testified in court that antidepressants very frequently cause severe emotional and behavioral disturbances in children. He used a flipchart to draw a diagram of the brain for the jury to graphically explain to them how the antipsychotic drugs work by blocking dopamine neurotransmission and how that leads to a compensatory reaction in the brain that causes tardive dyskinesia. Dr. Breggin’s complete trial testimony can be read here.
Instead of removing the child from the offending antidepressants, his first psychiatrist started him on Risperdal (risperidone). His second psychiatrist, Howard Segal, MD, who was the defendant in the case, continued him on Risperdal and then Zyprexa for two and one half years, despite the appearance of tardive dyskinesia symptoms. Dr. Breggin explained to the jury how antipsychotic drugs cause tardive dyskinesia at a high rate in children and adults, and how the doctor’s negligent actions caused the boy to develop severe tardive dyskinesia and tardive akathisia.
In response to the jury verdict, Dr. Breggin stated that psychiatric drugs do much more harm than good in treating autistic children and that he hoped the case would serve as a reminder and an alert that autistic children (like all distressed children) need caring psychological, social and educational interventions, and not psychiatric drugs.
Dr. Breggin is the author of many scientific articles and books. His most recent book is Psychiatric Drug Withdrawal: A Guide for Prescribers, Therapists, Patients and their Families. His website is www.breggin.com.
The malpractice case was Angel v. Segal, State of Illinois, In the Circuit Court of Cook Count, Illinois, County Department, Law Division, No. 09 L 3496.