A Philadelphia jury recently awarded a woman $4.2 million in her lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen Pharmaceutical. The lawsuit was one of 134 that have been filed against the company in Philadelphia courts by plaintiffs who say that a seizure drug manufactured by Janssen, Topamax, caused birth defects. Legal observers predict that victims will eventually file a class-action lawsuit against the company.
April Czimmer, from Virginia, told jurors that she took Topamax from August 2006 through February 2007 for the treatment of migraine headaches. Although the drug was developed as a seizure control medication, it had proven to have off-label benefits for migraines and some psychiatric conditions. In September 2007, she gave birth to a baby boy who had a cleft lip.
According to CleftLipPalate.com, a cleft lip is described as: “A cleft lip is a physical split or separation of the two sides of the upper lip and appears as a narrow opening or gap in the skin of the upper lip. This separation often extends beyond the base of the nose and includes the bones of the upper jaw and/or upper gum.” It took four surgeries to correct the baby’s lip.
At the time Czimmer was taking the drug, there was some evidence that the anti-epileptic seizure drugs could pose a risk of cleft palates, but there were no special warning labels on Topamax. That changed in 2011, four years after Czimmer gave birth, when the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that Topamax did carry an increased risk for cleft palate and lip in children whose mothers were taking the drug.
The FDA also changed the drug from a pregnancy category C to a pregnancy category D. Category C drugs have shown indications of possible harm to unborn children. Category D drugs show positive proof of harming unborn children.
Lawyers for Johnson & Johnson argued they were not liable for the birth defects since Czimmer’s doctor had been warned of the risk of birth defects from the drug and that the doctor had relayed those warnings to Czimmer. They also claimed no liability, labeling the birth defect as a “common congenital malformation”, evidenced by the 4,500 babies are born in this country every year with cleft lip and palate defects.
The jury took less than an hour to deliberate to let the company know they disagreed with their defense and awarded Czimmer $4.2 million.
If you or someone in your family has suffered an injury or illness from a medication that you were prescribed, contact a Texas personal injury attorney to find out what compensation you may be entitled to for your pain and loss.