Johnson & Johnson announces settlements in 76 Topamax birth defects lawsuits filed in Philadelphia

by Eric Pearson

Drugmaker Johnson & Johnson has agreed to settle 76 lawsuits that were pending in Pennsylvania state court involving birth defects caused by the epilepsy and migraine drug Topamax. The company’s decision to settle the dozens of Topamax lawsuits comes in the wake of several multimillion-dollar verdicts against the drug company in favor of families whose children were born with birth defects caused by the epilepsy drug.

The Food and Drug Administration issued a warning in March 2011 that Topamax can increase the risk of oral cleft defects for children whose mothers used the drug during pregnancy. According to the FDA warning, women who use Topamax during pregnancy are up to 16 times more likely to give birth to a child with a cleft lip or cleft palate than women who were prescribed another epilepsy medication.

Parents Kelly and Brian Anderson won a $3 million verdict against Johnson & Johnson in October 2013 after their son, Peyton, was born with severe birth defects caused by Topamax. Another mother, Haley Powell, was awarded damages of $11 million in December 2013 after her son was born with a cleft lip and nasal deformities after she used Topamax while pregnant.

Lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson filed by parents whose children were born with birth defects caused by the epilepsy and migraine drug alleged that the drugmaker concealed information from doctors and parents that Topamax could cause birth defects. Lawyers in the case produced evidence showing that Johnson & Johnson may have known as early as 1997 of the link between Topamax and birth defects risks.

Cleft lips or cleft palates—known collectively as oral cleft defects—occur when a portion of the lip or palate fail to fuse properly during the first trimester of pregnancy. Oral cleft defects can range from a small notch in the lip to a groove that runs into the roof of the mouth and nose. These birth defects can also lead to other problems, including ear infections and difficulty eating or talking, and may require surgery in order to be corrected.

In addition to the 76 lawsuits involving Topamax that were settled by Johnson & Johnson, the company also announced that settlements had been reached in several additional cases involving the epilepsy drug, but declined to state how many additional lawsuits had been settled. Johnson & Johnson is still facing about 60 Topamax lawsuits in Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas, the court where the cases that were settled had been scheduled to be heard.

Side Effects Caused By Dangerous Drugs?

When drug companies fail to warn parents about risk of pregnancy complications from prescription drugs such as Topamax, they may be placing children at risk of serious and potentially life-altering birth defects. Despite FDA warnings about the birth defect risk of countless prescription drugs—ranging from SSRI antidepressants such as Paxil, Prozac, Zoloft, Celexa, Effexor, and Lexapro; drugs containing valproate (valproic acid) like Depakote, Depakene, Depacon, and Stavzor; or the acne medication Accutane—thousands of children continue to be harmed each year by preventable complications caused by prescription medications.

Heygood, Orr & Pearson has represented numerous patients in pharmaceutical liability lawsuits after they suffered complications caused by prescription drugs. Our attorneys have tried hundreds of cases to verdict and reached settlements in hundreds more, achieving verdicts and settlements totaling more than $200 million. In the year 2010 alone, Heygood, Orr & Pearson settled personal injury and wrongful death claims totaling more than $50 million on behalf of our clients.

If your child was born with birth defects caused by complications from a prescription medication, you may be entitled to file a lawsuit and receive compensation to help with the costly medical expenses. For more information about your legal rights, contact the lawyers at Heygood, Orr & Pearson by calling toll-free at 1-877-446-9001, or by following the link to our free case evaluation form located on this website.

by Eric Pearson

Eric Pearson is a licensed attorney and a partner at HO&P who handles commercial and personal injury lawsuits. Eric has been selected to the Super Lawyers List, a Thomson Reuters publication.