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Did the drug Depakote cause birth defects?

New parents in Maryland may be interested to hear that claims filed against Abbot Laboratories, the manufacturer of the prescription drug Depakote, by hundreds of plaintiffs has been removed to federal court because it is a mass-action lawsuit with more than 100 people trying their related claims jointly. Depakote was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 1983 and is prescribed to treat certain types of seizures, manic-depressive disorder and headaches. The plaintiffs allege that during the mother's pregnancy they took Depakote, causing their children to suffer birth defects. The plaintiffs want to hold the company liable for damages for continuing to market and sell the drug despite knowing of its risks.

A medical study from two years ago revealed that taking Depakote increased the risk of spina bifida by 12 times with use of the medication during pregnancy. Spina bifida is a condition that occurs when the spinal canal and the backbone do not close properly in the developing fetus. The plaintiffs claim that their children were born with spina biflda, neural tube defects and other birth defects.

Maryland families should understand that a pharmaceutical manufacturer's primary duty is to physicians. A pharmaceutical manufacturer may be liable when a drug causes birth defects if the plaintiffs can prove that the manufacturer failed to warn of the drug's potential side effects.

Although the manufacturer must research a drug's possible side effects before putting it on the market and inform the physician of all risks, it is up to the physician to determine whether a drug is appropriate for the patient. The pharmaceutical company's only duty is to manufacture drugs that will be reasonably safe when used as intended. The physician must warn patients of the drug's risks.

Source: Courthouse News Service, "Abbott Seizure Med Cases Aren't Fit for State Court," Joseph Celentino, Oct.18, 2012

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