Cleft palate is a birth defect that can occur on its own or with cleft lip, another craniofacial malformation that can lead to significant complications for affected babies, including hearing loss, chronic ear infections, feeding difficulties, dental problems, and delays in speech and language development. Cleft palate with or without cleft lip occurs in about one in every 500 to 550 births in the United States, and may be considerably more likely in babies exposed to certain pharmaceutical drugs taken by their mothers during pregnancy. If you took a prescription medication while pregnant, and your child was born with a cleft palate birth defect, you may be entitled to financial compensation for your child’s injuries, medical expenses, and pain and suffering. Contact a reputable cleft palate birth defect attorney today to discuss your options for legal recourse.
December 2005 – A public health advisory issued by the FDA includes warnings about the potential for Paxil use in pregnancy to cause birth defects in babies.
July 2006 – The FDA adds a black box warning to the Depakote label after a study finds that 20% of women who become pregnant while taking Depakote give birth to babies with congenital malformations.
December 2009 – The FDA issues a drug safety communication indicating that women who become pregnant while taking Depakote may be more likely to give birth to babies with craniofacial defects and other congenital malformations.
March 2011 – A safety communication issued by the FDA warns consumers and medical professionals about the potential for Topamax use in pregnancy to cause cleft lip and cleft palate birth defects in babies.
Data from the North American Antiepileptic Drug Pregnancy Registry (NAAED) shows that babies born to women with epilepsy who take Depakote while pregnant are four times more likely to develop birth defects like craniofacial malformations, compared to babies born to women with epilepsy taking another anticonvulsant drug.
August 2006 – A study published in the journal Neurology finds that approximately 20.3% of women who take Depakote during pregnancy experience adverse outcomes related to the birth of their children, compared to only 1% to 10.7% of women who take similar drugs during pregnancy.
June 2007 – The New England Journal of Medicine publishes research linking use of the antidepressant Zoloft in pregnancy to an increased risk of birth defects in babies, including cleft lip and cleft palate.
July 2009 – The journal Reproductive Toxicology publishes a study linking maternal use of Depakote in pregnancy to a nearly three-fold increased risk of major birth defects, including craniofacial abnormalities.
June 2010 – Research published in the New England Journal of Medicine finds that women who take Depakote while pregnant may have a significantly increased risk of giving birth to babies with six major malformations, including cleft palate birth defects.
July 2010 – The UK Epilepsy and Pregnancy Register and the European and International Registry of Antiepileptic Drugs in Pregnancy report that women who take Depakote and other valproate-based anticonvulsant drugs are more than twice as likely to give birth to babies with major malformations.
November 2011 – A study of 9,000 expectant mothers conducted by the Sloan Epidemiology Center and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) finds that women who take Zofran during the first trimester of pregnancy face more than double the risk of giving birth to a child with a cleft palate.
January 2012 – Research published in the medical journal Birth Defects Research Part A: Clinical and Molecular Teratology finds that women who take Zofran during pregnancy are 2.37 times more likely to give birth to a baby with cleft palate.
July 2012 – The American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology publishes a study indicating that use of the anticonvulsant Topamax during the first trimester of pregnancy may increase a baby’s risk of being born with oral cleft birth defects, including cleft lip with or without cleft palate.
August 2012 – Data from the American Headache Society finds a greater risk of oral clefts and other major birth defects among babies whose mothers take Topamax while pregnant, compared to babies whose mothers take other anticonvulsant drugs while pregnant.
December 2013 – A study published in BioMed Research International involving more than 96,000 births in Western Australia finds a 20% higher risk of major birth defects in babies exposed to Zofran during the first trimester of pregnancy.
June 2014 – The Toronto Star publishes a report detailing 20 cases where babies exposed to Zofran during pregnancy were born with mouth deformities and other birth defects.
Cleft palate is one of the most difficult superficial malformations for children to deal with, as it is a clearly visible facial deformity. Besides the appearance of the defect, the accompanying complications, including hearing loss and speech problems, will only aggravate the child’s discomfort. Other problems associated with cleft palate include failure to gain weight, feeding problems, poor growth and misaligned teeth. The parents of children born with cleft palate birth defects after being exposed to certain medications during pregnancy are pursuing compensation from drug manufacturing companies, alleging that they:
In most cases, cleft palate can be corrected at an early age so that the child can continue to grow and his proper speech can develop normally. However, in more severe cases, the necessary treatment may be more complicated, and the child may continue to suffer from long-term complications of the congenital malformation. If you or a loved one has suffered from a cleft palate birth defect, and use of a pharmaceutical drug like Zofran, Paxil or Depakote during pregnancy is believed to be the cause, contact an experienced product liability attorney immediately. You may be entitled to reimbursement for your injuries and a knowledgeable birth defect lawyer can help you collect the compensation you deserve.