Drug recall lawyers at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm have evidence from court documents that the company accused of illegally marketing the dangerous anti-seizure drug Depakote is actively engaged in settlement talks with the government. A federal probe recently revealed that the Illinois-based company Abbott Laboratories violated the law by promoting Depakote for unapproved uses. The company failed to warn the medical community about the serious risk of Depakote side effects, and 20 percent of pregnant mothers who used Depakote in their first trimesters gave birth to a child with a birth defect.
In response, a number of class action lawsuits were filed across the country by families of children born with birth defects such as spina bifida. Current and former Abbott employees, as well as the federal government, also joined in lawsuits to hold the company responsible for its improper marketing practices.
The amount of money that Abbott might agree to pay is unknown, although we are aware of similar drug company settlements that totaled hundreds of millions of dollars. Last year, pharmaceutical powerhouse GlaxosmithKline agreed to pay $750 million to settle claims that it sold contaminated drugs to government health programs such as Medicaid. The drug manufacturer AstraZeneca also settled for $520 million for the off-label marketing of its anti-psychotic drug Seroquel.
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Settlements are common for major drug companies that wish to avoid the delay and expense of litigation. Unfortunately, even large settlements may not be effective enough to deter drug companies from future marketing abuses that harm the public. A recent Times Magazine article explains that the companies often offset the cost of heavy fines by increasing the price of future drugs, which makes medical care more expensive for all of us. If our government seriously wanted to protect public safety, it should insist on bringing more pharmaceutical companies to trial.
The severe harm that negligent drug companies such as Abbott are causing patients cannot be underestimated. Our Depakote lawyers continue to fight for the rights of mothers who used the dangerous seizure drug during pregnancy and gave birth to children with permanent birth defects such as spina bifida and cleft palates. The risk that an infant exposed to Depakote will be born with a neural tube defect is ten times greater than with any other epilepsy drug.
Even more troubling is the fact that Abbott knew about the risk of Depakote birth defects before it started marketing the drug in the United States, but it failed to issue a warning. The drug maker put innocent patients at risk by trying by aggressively marketing Depakote for uses that were not approved by federal regulators, such as depression and bi-polar disorder. There were many other alternatives available to pregnant women that did not carry the same risk of birth defects, but Abbott was more interested in profits than patient safety. Abbott even encouraged nursing homes to use Depakote for off-label uses, without warning them that elderly patients would likely experience serious side effects.
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Drug companies cannot continue to jeopardize public health and safety in order to maximize profits. It is a crime to promote a drug for off-label uses, and companies that negligently market dangerous drugs should be held accountable for the harm that they cause. Lawsuits are an effective way to deter drug companies from future harm, especially if they result in litigation or expensive settlements that hurt the bottom line. Our attorneys will continue to fight on behalf of all patients who have been harmed by serious Depakote side effects.