AbbVie must pay $15 million in Depakote birth-defect trial: jury

(Reuters) - A federal jury on Friday awarded $15 million to a 10-year-old boy whose mother blamed his birth defect on AbbVie Inc's ABBV.N bipolar disorder drug Depakote that she took while pregnant, in the latest trial among hundreds of lawsuits over the product.

FILE PHOTO -- A screen displays the share price for pharmaceutical maker AbbVie on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange July 18, 2014. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/File Photo

Jurors in federal court in East St. Louis, Illinois, awarded the compensatory damages to Stevie Gonzalez, who was born with spina bifida. His mother, Christina Raquel, said she was not adequately warned about a risk of birth defects when she took Depakote while pregnant.

Jurors awarded no punitive damages during a second phase of the trial, according to court papers. The lawsuit was filed against Abbott Laboratories Inc.

AbbVie spun out of Abbott in 2013 and assumed all rights and responsibilities for the drug. About 695 injury claims related to Depakote are pending in federal and state courts, according to AbbVie.

In a statement, AbbVie said in several prior cases, “juries have unanimously found that Depakote’s label enables doctors to make properly informed decisions about Depakote’s demonstrated benefits and the clearly disclosed risk of birth defects.”

Lawyers for the plaintiffs did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

In 2012, Abboutt agreed to pay $1.6 billion to resolve federal and state claims that it promoted Depakote for uses that were not approved by U.S. health regulators.

In her lawsuit, Raquel claimed that her child was born in 2007 with birth defects after she took Depakote to treat her bipolar disorder while she was pregnant.

The lawsuit said Abbott failed to provide adequate warnings to her psychiatrists regarding the risk of birth defects associated with Depakote use.

Lawyers for the company said doctors were warned about the drug’s risks. It also argued Raquel cannot prove Depakote caused her child’s injuries.

Depakote cases have had mixed results in court. In 2015, a Missouri state court jury awarded 24 plaintiffs $38 million.

But a federal jury in Ohio in 2015 cleared Abbott and AbbVie of liability in another lawsuit. In February, another federal jury in Ohio returned a defense verdict.

The case is E.R.G., a minor, by Christina Raquel, individually as parent and next friend of E.R.G., v. Abbott Laboratories Inc, U.S. District Court, Southern District of Illinois, No. 15-cv-00702.

Reporting by Nate Raymond in Boston; Editing by David Gregorio and Cynthia Osterman