Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen Must Pay $11M & $4M in Topamax Birth Injury Cases

Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen Pharmaceuticals unit has lost its second drug injury verdict in a month-this one for $11 million. Haley Powell claimed that anti-seizure medication Topamax caused her son to be born with a cleft lip. The ruling comes not long after another jury ordered Janssen to pay $4.06 million to April Czimmer, whose son Blake was also born with a cleft lip in 2007. He had to undergo four surgeries. Czimmer used the drug to treat her migraines.

Jurors in Powell’s Topamax birth defect case found that the pharmaceutical company did not properly warn her about the risks involved with taking the medication even though it knew the drug could cause serious birth defects. Powell’s drug injury legal team argued that Janssen knew of the birth defect risks as far back as 1997 but intentionally kept safety reports hidden. Meantime, the manufacturer’s lawyers argued that cleft lips are common and impact about 4,500 newborns annually.

Now, Powell’s son, Brayden, 5, will have to undergo at least five surgeries before he turns 21 to fix his cleft lip. Many other Topamax injury lawsuits against Janssen are pending.


This drug is frequently prescribed for epilepsy and migraines, as well as the off-label uses, including treatment of bipolar disorder, obesity, bulimia, neuropathic pain, obsessive-compulsive disorder, idiopathic intracranial hypertension, and alcoholism. Unfortunately, Topamax has been linked to serious side effects in not just adults but also babies.

According to studies, taking Topamax during pregnancy can significantly up the changes of birth defects, especially cleft lips and cleft palates that can prevent the infant’s lip and mouth from properly forming. Immediate surgery is required to hopefully remedy this situation and it is a defect that not only causes physical deformity but also can create difficulties with feeding, speaking, and hearing, as well as ear infections and teeth problems. Even after the initial operation, more procedures later in life may be required to improve hearing, speech, and breathing. Speech therapy and specialized dental care also may be necessary.

It was in 2011 that the Food and Drug Administration asked Janssen to change its drug label to include a stronger warning that Topamax may play a role in causing cleft palates in babies born to women who used the drug while they were pregnant. That is the same year that the federal agency put out an alert warning that for pregnant women taking Topamax the risk of having a child born with cleft palate or cleft lip is 21 times greater.

Topamax also has been linked to other serious birth defects, including limb malformations, hypospadias, lung defects, spina bifida, and heart defects.

In Massachusetts, our Boston drug injury lawyers know how upsetting it can be to discover that your child was injured because of a medication that was prescribed to you. Contact Altman & Altman LLP today.

Jury awards $4M on claim Janssen drug caused birth defect,
J&J’s Janssen Must Pay $11 Million Over Topamax, Jury Says,, November 18, 2013

More Blog Posts:

FDA Study Finds Epilepsy Medication Linked to Serious Birth Defects, Drug Injury Lawyers Blog, July 9, 2013

Women Suffering from Mirena IUD Complications May Have Recourse Against Manufacturer, Drug Injury Lawyers Blog, October 21, 2013
Boston Dangerous Drug Lawsuit Over Meningitis Outbreak Linked to Massachusetts Compound Pharmacy Proceeds, Boston Injury Lawyer Blog, September 19, 2013

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