Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc., a Johnson & Johnson (J&J) unit, has agreed to settle with plaintiffs in 76 suits pending in Pennsylvania court over alleged birth defects in the babies of women who took the anti-epilepsy and migraine drug Topamax during their pregnancies. Judge Arnold New, who is coordinating a mass tort docket of Topamax cases in the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas, filed an order on April 1 marking 76 cases in the program as discontinued after he received word that Plaintiffs had reached settlement deals with Janssen.
Judge New’s order comes a month after a Philadelphia County jury returned a $3 million verdict in favor of the family of 5-year-old Payton Anderson, who claimed that Janssen didn’t update Topamax’s label to reflect data showing that the drug resulted in increased incidents of cleft lips and cleft palates in newborn babies. It was the third such jury verdict since cases in the Topamax mass tort program, which was set up in 2011, began going to trial in autumn 2013.
A jury returned a $4 million verdict against Janssen in a similar suit in October. Another family won $10 million in damages after a jury returned a verdict in their favor in December. Trial in a fourth Topamax case began in late February, but Janssen announced it had reached a settlement in the suit the same day that the jury returned its verdict in the Anderson case. Also the same day, Janssen announced it had reached settlements in several other Topamax cases but declined to say precisely how many it had disposed of. Judge New’s recent order, however, sheds light on the breadth of Janssen’s work to settle the suits.
There are an additional 60 cases pending as part of the Topamax mass tort docket in Philadelphia. In 2010, Janssen agreed to pay more than $81 million to put to settle a U.S. Department of Justice inquiry into off-label marketing of Topamax. Federal prosecutors accused Janssen of improperly marketing the drug for off-label psychiatric uses, causing false claims to be submitted to government health care programs such as Medicaid.
The government claimed that the company marketed Topamax for off-label uses through a program known as “Doctor-for-a-Day,” under which the company hired outside physicians to visit doctors’ offices along with company sales representatives, or to speak at meetings and dinners about prescribing Topamax for unapproved uses. The Plaintiffs in this case are represented by Clark Love & Hutson, Motley Rice, Matthews & Associates, Meyerson & O’Neill and the Branch Law Firm. They did a very good job in this matter.
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