A St. Louis jury has awarded a Minnesota girl $15 million for numerous birth defects found to have been caused by the antiepileptic drug Depakote, which her mother took while pregnant. According to the St. Louis Dispatch, although Abbott Laboratories is named in the lawsuit as the manufacturer of Depakote, AbbVie, Inc., a spinoff company, will be held financially responsible. This will present more legal problems for AbbVie, which is already dealing with testosterone lawsuits.
Depakote is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat epilepsy, bipolar disorder, and migraines. However, Abbott has been found guilty of promoting their drug for off label uses. In 2012, the company agreed to pay $1.5 billion to the federal government over unlawful marketing of Depakote. A year later, the FDA issued a warning about Depakote and other valproate sodium–based drugs, urging women not to take the medications while pregnant. According to agency estimates, up to two in every 100 babies born to mothers who used Depakote while pregnant suffer from birth defects.
The birth defect risks posed by Depakote are similar to those of the antiemetic drug Zofran. Zofran, which is intended to treat nausea and vomiting in chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and surgery patients, has been linked to increased chances of birth defects. Additionally, certain antidepressants called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) have been associated with birth defects. Numerous studies have linked SSRIs like Prozac and Zoloft to serious heart birth defects in children.
Plaintiffs in birth defect lawsuits allege that the manufacturers of drugs like Depakote, Zofran, and Zoloft failed to sufficiently warn doctors and patients of the risk of birth defects posed by their products. They additionally claim that these companies, which include Abbott, GlaxoSmithKline, and Pfizer, did not adequately test their drugs before putting them on the market.
You should always make sure to speak with your health care provider before switching or suspending medications. If you or someone close to you gave birth to a child with birth defects after using any of these drugs during pregnancy, contact the attorneys at Lopez McHugh today for a free consultation. Our birth defect lawyers are ready to help you and your loved one.