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Janssen Pharmaceuticals, a unit of Johnson & Johnson, has been ordered to pay $4.02 million in a lawsuit which claims their drug Topamax, used to help patients with epilepsy, caused birth defects such as cleft palate.

Jury Finds Seizure drug Topamax Caused Cleft Birth DefectsThe jury, who deliberated for less than one hour, rendered a verdict in favor of April Czimmer, a Virginia resident who recently gave birth to a boy with a cleft lip. The boy had undregone four surgeries shortly after birth to correct the issue.

Cleft palate and cleft lip are a genetic abnormality that occur when the lip or palate fail to completely fuse together. This results in a small notch in the upper lip, or in extreme cases, a large groove from the roof of the mouth extending to the nose.

Czimmer’s attorney Tommy Fibich said that “This was our first case to go to trial and there are many more behind it…This will expose the company to many more lawsuits”.

The case is the first of almost 134 cases pending over use of the drug.

Janssen has stated that it will appearl the verdict.

“We are extremely disappointed with the jury’s verdict,” Teresa Mueller, a spokeswoman for the company said. “The evidence showed that the company clearly warned Ms. Czimmer’s prescriber that the product had the risk to cause birth defects and she understood and conveyed those warnings to Ms. Czimmer.”

Janssen insists that there are many other factors which could contrinbute to the birth defects, including genetics, smoking, and other drug use.

Czimmer was also taking an anti-anxiety drug when she became pregnant.

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