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Depakote Spina Bifida Lawsuit, Abbott Laboratories

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Portland, ORValerie was taking Depakote for bipolar disorder but stopped taking it when she was pregnant. “I didn’t know I was pregnant until my ninth week and by that time the damage was already done,” she says.

It is not uncommon for women to not know immediately that they are pregnant. In Valerie’s case, she was told that her chances of getting pregnant were next to impossible so she was surprised, thrilled and concerned with the news. “I had an alpha-fetoprotein (AFP screening test) at 18 weeks and another ultrasound at 21 weeks. Both tests showed that my baby had Spina Bifida [a spinal defect] and the ultrasound determined there were more serious birth defects,” Valerie says, and crying. She terminated the pregnancy.

There are several types of Spina Bifida. Some people (about 15 percent of healthy people) don’t even know they have it while Spina Bifida Cystica is very serious and can cause brain damage.

John Bonner was born in 1994 with Spina Bifida. He believes that Chantele Bonner’s use of Depakote while she was pregnant with John is the cause of his spinal defect along with other physical and cognitive Depakote side effects. (Depakote has recently been linked to lower IQs in children whose mothers took Depakote during their pregnancy.)

John filed a Depakote lawsuit against Abbott Laboratories, the manufacturer and marketer of the anti-epilepsy drug, for failure to warn that its use during pregnancy created a potential for fetal abnormalities. Abbott’s motion for summary judgment was denied by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois based on scientific evidence from as far back as the 1980s, determining that Depakote was more toxic to a fetus than other anti-epilepsy drugs in use during the last three decades.

Furthermore, Chantele’s doctor testified that if the state of medical knowledge was as alleged in 1994 and made known to him, it would have changed his prescribing habits of Depakote, according to Health Law Week. As a result, John’s Depakote lawsuit is going forward.

A more recent Depakote study in 2009 advised women of child-bearing age not to use valproate (brand name Depakote) as their first anti-seizure drug of choice.

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