Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen unit has settled 76 lawsuits alleging that the drug Topamax caused birth defects. Topamax, a medication used to treat epilepsy and migraines, caused birth defects in children whose mothers took the drug during pregnancy, the plaintiffs alleged. Law360 reports that Judge Arnold New, who is overseeing the mass tort in Philadelphia, filed an order showing that 76 lawsuits were discontinued because Janssen Pharmaceuticals had reached settlement deals with the plaintiffs. Judge New is overseeing the mass tort docket of Topamax cases in Philadelphia.
The Order was issued a month after a Philadelphia County jury returned a verdict of $3 million against Janssen in a lawsuit filed by the family of five-year old Payton Anderson. That lawsuit alleged that Janssen did not update its label to adequately warn about an increased incidence of cleft lefts and cleft palates in newborns. This was the third verdict of its kind since the Topamax mass tort program, which was set up in 2011, began going to trial in fall 2013. Last October, a $4 million verdict was returned against Janssen and another family won $10 million in a similar suit in December.
There are an additional 60 cases pending in the Topamax mass tort docket in Philadelphia, court records show.
These lawsuits are not the first legal problems Janssen has had over Topamax. In 2010, the company agreed to $81 million to end an investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice. The federal government was probing Janssen over Topamax off-label marketing allegations; the government accused the company of promoting Topamax for off-label psychiatric uses and caused those false claims to be submitted to government health care programs such as Medicaid.
A fourth Topamax lawsuit began in late February, but Janssen announced that the suit was settled on the same day that the jury returned the $3 million verdict for the Anderson case. That same day, the company said it also settled other Topamax lawsuits but did not specific the number. Judge New’s order, however, gives a better scope of how many cases have been settled.