On November 18, a Pennsylvania state jury awarded $11 million to the mother of a little boy who was born with a cleft palate as a result of her prescription to the dangerous drug, Topamax. Johnson & Johnson's subsidiary, Janssen Pharmaceuticals, argued that they supplied adequate warnings of the safety risks surrounding the anti-seizure drug, but the jury disagreed.
This is actually the second case of Topamax litigation in the past two months. In October, a woman from Virginia was awarded $4 million after alleging Janssen and Johnson & Johnson did not properly elaborate on the drug's overwhelming links to oral cleft malformations. Janssen Pharmaceuticals will be appealing both verdicts, but most medical experts agree that their appeals will heed no results.
In total, Johnson & Johnson and Janssen Pharmaceuticals are currently facing more than 130 Topamax-related claims. The process is slower than most plaintiffs would like, but two more cases are scheduled to be heard in February and then in March of 2014. As the number of complaints grows, however, justice will likely be more swiftly carried out over the next few years.
According to most victims, and these plaintiffs in particular, Johnson & Johnson and Topamax were well aware of the birth defects for quite some time before they actually warned patients who were prescribed the drug. Attorneys for victims have cited test results from animal studies, as well as older, unpublished complaints about defects in children of women who used Topamax
While Janssen maintains that oral cleft malformations in children whose mothers used Topamax neither enhances nor decreases a child's chances of being born with defects, studies on the dangerous drug have shown otherwise, as does Topamax's own label, which was changed in 2011 to warn mothers-to-be of the possible side effects.
Source: Fierce Pharma, "Philly jury hit J&J with $11M verdict in Topamax birth-defects case" 19 November 2013