AbbVie Ordered to Pay $15 Million in Depakote Birth Defect Suit
June 8, 2017
The jury in an Illinois federal court has just ordered pharmaceutical giant AbbVie to pay $15 million to a boy who suffers from a serious spinal malformation as a result of his mother taking the drug Depakote when she was pregnant with him.
The court ruled that AbbVie must pay the steep fine because the company failed to adequately warn his mother and her doctors that Depakote had been linked to the birth defect spina bifida, in which the spinal column deviates into two branches. Stevie Gonzalez has endured 12 surgeries for the condition, and must use a wheelchair.
Depakote is used to treat bipolar disorder. Gonzalez’s mother took the drug for that reason while pregnant with her son. Jurors found that Depakote’s manufacturer had not properly warned her that such serious side effects could result from taking the drug.
This is the second Depakote suit that AbbVie – formerly a part of Abbott Laboratories – has lost. The first was in St. Louis in 2015, when a jury awarded $38 million to a girl with spina bifida. Approximately 700 other such Depakote suits are pending.
Abbott official knew about Depakote’s links to birth defects as long ago as 2004; in 2006, federal regulators required the company to put a pregnancy-use label warning on the drug’s product labeling. Yet Abbott failed to adequately warn doctors about the birth-defect risk involved with taking the drug.
Depakote was a major money-maker for Abbott. It was not only the company’s most profitable drug, but the first to achieve $1 billion in annual sales.
In 2012, Abbott paid a $1.6 billion to settle claims concerning the ways in which the company marketed Depakote.
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