Abbott Laboratories Inc. has reached a settlement with a Missouri woman alleging that the drugmaker’s seizure and bipolar disorder drug Depakote caused a severe spinal condition in her son. The settlement actually came while the jury in the case was out deliberating.

In 2012, Beth Forbes accused Abbott of failing to warn her and other patients of the risk of bearing a child with spina bifida while taking Depakote during pregnancy. The following was alleged and said to have been proved at trial:

Ms. Forbes began showing signs of mental illness in 1999 and was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2002 during a hospitalization. She was prescribed Depakote extended-release tablets as a mood stabilizer, as well as Geodon and Wellbutrin. In early 2005, Forbes became pregnant with her son, stopped taking Depakote when she realized she was expecting and gave birth in September of that year. Her son was diagnosed with spina bifida, as well as several secondary conditions, such as club feet and hearing loss. While Ms. Forbes was taking Depakote, its label included specific warnings about the risk of spina bifida from exposure in the womb, including a black box warning in capital letters that warned of the risks of neural tube defects such as spina bifida.

Abbott had unsuccessfully tried to get the punitive damages claim in the suit thrown out by the court. U.S. District Judge Charles Shaw rejected Abbot’s request, saying Forbes had shown evidence that Abbott knew since the 1980s that Depakote had strong enough risks for serious birth defects that it should only be used along with birth control. Therefore, the warnings on the label didn’t convey the full extent of the risks.

Ms. Forbes is represented by Daniel Raniere of Aubuchon Raniere & Panzeri, John Boundas, John Eddie Williams, Jr., Brian Abramson and Margot Trevino of Williams and Kherkher, and George Erick Rosemond of Rosemond Law PC. The case is in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri.


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