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A Pennsylvania jury has awarded $3 million in damages to the family of a five year-old boy born with birth defects following exposure to Topamax during pregnancy, which is the third Topamax lawsuit to result in a multi-million dollar verdict against Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen Pharmaceuticals subsidiary over the past six months.
The verdict was handled down last week in the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas, involving a lawsuit filed by the parents of Payton Anderson, who was born with a cleft lip after her mother took Topamax during pregnancy for the treatment of chronic migraines. The lawsuit alleged that Janssen failed to adequately warn consumers and the medical community about the link between Topamax and birth defects.
This case was the third Topamax trial to go before a jury in Philadelphia, with combined verdicts of $17 million now awarded to three families.
In October 2013, a jury awarded $4 million to the family of Blake Czimmer, who was born in 2007 with numerous birth defects. That was followed by an $11 million verdict in November for the family of Brayden Powell, who was born with a cleft lip and other deformities that may require at least five surgeries to correct before he turns 21.
Janssen has indicated it will appeal this latest verdict, maintaining that Anderson’s mother was repeatedly warned by her doctors not to take Topamax during pregnancy, and said that other factors could have caused the birth defects.
The company faces more than 130 similar lawsuits over Topamax birth defects filed by families throughout the country.
Topamax Birth Defects
Topamax (generic topiramate) was approved by the FDA in 1997, and it has been available as a generic since 2006. It is approved for the treatment of epilepsy, migraines and to promote weight loss.
Johnson & Johnson has maintained that adequate Topamax warnings were provided. However, in March 2011, the FDA issued a warning about the Topamax oral cleft birth defect risk among babies born to mothers who took the drug during the first trimester of pregnancy. The FDA has urged doctors to avoid giving Topamax to pregnant women or women who are of child-bearing age and at a high risk of pregnancy.
Cleft palate and cleft lip occur when parts of the lip or palate fail to completely fuse together. The defect results in the child being born with defects as small as a notched lip to extreme as an open groove that goes from the roof of the mouth to the nose. Cleft palate and cleft lip can cause problems eating and talking and can increase the risk of ear infections, resulting in the need for corrective surgery.
These early trial dates are designed to help the parties gauge how juries may respond to evidence and testimony that may be repeated throughout other cases, potentially facilitating further Topamax settlement negotiations to resolve the litigation without dozens of individual trials.