$11 Million Verdict in Topamax Trial

by Ryan L. Thompson on 12/06/2013

Last week a jury returned an $11 million dollar verdict against Janssen Pharmaceutical  (a Johnson & Johnson subsidiary) for failing to warn patients and doctors that taking Topamax (also known as topiramate) while pregnant could result in birth defects.  In Powell v. Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Haley Powell and Michael Gurley sued Janssen Pharmaceutical for and on behalf of their son, Brayden Gurley.  Braydon was born with right unilateral cleft lip.  The jury provided $330,000.00 for future corrective surgeries.

This Topamax birth defects case brought to light that Janssen Pharmaceuticals knew as early as 2001 that taking its anti-seizure medication while pregnant could cause birth defects, but did not change the label to include the warning until 2011.  Brayden was born in 2008.

This is the second verdict against Janssen Pharmaceuticals out of the 132 Topamax cases currently on file.  Per Stanley Thompson, director of the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas' Complex Litigation Center, the first case, Czimmer v. Ortho-McNeil-Janssen Pharmaceuticals, resulted in a $4 million verdict on October 30, 2013.  Virginia Czimmer brought the action against Janssen on behalf of her six-year-old son who was born with craniofacial abnormalities. 

What is Topamax?

Topamax, manufactured by Janssen Pharmaceuticals, a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson, is an anti-seizure medication often used to treat chronic migraines. Other off-label uses for the drug include treatment for obesity, alcoholism, and bipolar disorder. 

The side effects of the drug can be catastrophic.  Relatively minor side effects can include difficulty speaking, numbness and tingling, inability to focus, drowsiness, anorexia, and involuntary shaking.  More severe side effects include loss of eyesight, hallucination, anemia, and birth defects.  Common birth defects include cleft lip, cleft palate, and other craniofacial abnormalities.

The North American Antiepileptic Drug Pregnancy Registry has stated that ingesting Topamax or topiramate during pregnancy results in a higher percentage of birth defects than taking any other anti-seizure medication.

What does this mean for me?

Taking Topamax while pregnant can cause serious harm to your baby.  If you took Topamax or topiramate while pregnant and your child was born with a cleft lip, cleft palate or other craniofacial deformities, please contact us today. The case of Braydon Gurley has helped pave the way to ensure that Janssen Pharmaceutical and Johnson & Johnson pay for the damage their medication has caused families.

Tags: Pharmaceutical Mass Torts

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