Topamax lawyers at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm announce that a jury in Pennsylvania recently awarded $3 million to the family of a child born with a cleft lip after doctors prescribed Topamax to her mother. This is the third such case to go to trial, all of which have concluded in favor of the plaitniff.
Topamax (topiramate) is an anti-epileptic drug intended to treat seizures and chronic migraines. The mother in this case, Kelly Anderson, was prescribed Topamax throughout her pregnancy to treat chronic migraines. After her daughter was born with a cleft lip in 2009, Anderson started reading up on the incidents of cleft lips and palates in children exposed to the drug in utero.
She found and ultimately revealed in court that Topamax’s manufacturer, Johnson & Johnson subsidiary Janssen Pharmaceuticals, knew about the risk of craniofacial birth defects as early as 2000. Despite this knowledge, Janssen never requested that Topamax be listed as a Pregnancy Category D medication, which warns patients and physicians of the fetal risks.
As a direct result of this negligence, Anderson argues, she was unaware that she was taking a drug during her pregnancy that could cause cleft lip in her child. It was not until March 2011 that the FDA official recognized Topamax as a Pregnancy Category D medication. The Anderson family filed suit in December of that year.
Cleft lips and palates are not merely cosmetic birth defects; the more severe cases can lead to hearing loss, psychological challenges, and speaking and eating problems. Corrected a cleft lip or palate can often require numerous surgeries, which can be financially impossible for many families.
Hundreds of Children Affected
There are over 130 similar Topamax lawsuits pending against Janssen, which have been consolidated in Philadelphia as part of a multi-district litigation (MDL). A previous lawsuit ended October 2013, when a jury awarded the family of a child born with a cleft palate $4 million. The child in that case needed five surgeries to correct the birth defects caused by Topamax.
By far the highest-awarding trial for plaintiffs was in November 2013, when a Philadelphia jury awarded a family $11 million. The plaintiff in this case, a stay-at-home mother whose son suffered a cleft lip, successfully argued that Janssen long knew of the risks of birth defects in Topamax patients and intentionally hid or minimized them.
The child in this case will need at least five more surgeries before his 21st birthday to correct the facial deformities, which also caused nasal problems. The mother claimed that Janssen operated in a culture of secrecy and intentionally worded labels inadequate and inappropriate.
Another of the 134 Topamax birth defects lawsuits began in late February 2014. Beyond these cases, Janssen previously agreed to pay over $80 million to settle an investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice over the drug’s marketing.
The DOJ was responding to reports that Janssen improperly marketed Topamax
for psychiatric use, which was never approved by the FDA. The federal
government got involved when physicians started billing Medicare and Medicaid
for Topamax prescriptions to treat psychiatric disorders such as binge
eating, bipolar, and bulimia nervosa disorders.
Marketing for off-label uses is illegal, however it is a constant practice in the medical field because Big Pharma companies like Johnson & Johnson can more than afford to pay the fines. In this case, Janssen initiated a program called “Doctor-for-a-Day,” during which physicians hired by Janssen would visit medical offices with sales representatives or speak at meetings about prescribing Topamax for off-label disorders.
Our team of Topamax lawyers is currently investigating cases of cleft lip or palate in children exposed to Topamax in utero. If you or someone you know suffered a birth malformation associated with Topamax or any other dangerous drug, contact our office immediately. We may be able to relieve you from the stress of mounting medical bills and lost wages, and can help you and your family get back on your feet. Our case reviews are free, confidential, and available to concerned families nationwide.