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Pregnancies Blamed on Pharma Firms’ Lapses

PHILADELPHIA (CN) - A pharmaceutical company is liable for a birth control pill labeling snafu that caused unplanned pregnancies in over 100 women, a lawsuit filed in state civil court claims.

The complaint filed in the Philadelphia County common pleas court on Nov. 5 claims Endo Pharmaceuticals improperly packaged its monthly birth control pills in such a way that "select blisters found inside the pill box were rotated 180 degrees within the card, reversing the weekly tablet orientation."

Because the labeling error led women to take their pills in the wrong order, all 113 plaintiffs in the suit were left "without adequate contraception and at risk for pregnancy," according to the complaint.

They now want the manufacturers to pay up for damages ranging from lost wages to child-rearing expenses, and in one case, the cost of college tuition for the child born as a result of the mislabeled pills.

Attorney Keith Bodoh, who is representing the plaintiffs said in a phone interview that all but two of his clients became pregnant after taking the defectively labeled pills. Of that group, he said, 94 women carried their babies to term and 17 did not.

According to Bodoh, some of the those who gave birth as a result of the error were teenagers when they became pregnant, while others were college and law school students who had to drop out of school to have children.

One plaintiff was enlisted in the military at the time of her pregnancy, and was forced to give the child up for adoption due to a looming deployment, Bodoh said.

The exact damages the plaintiffs can claim vary depending on the state in which they live, the lawsuit says.

"Of the 28 states represented by the plaintiffs, 21 allow for limited damages, which includes recovery for medical expenses, pain and suffering, lost wages and loss of consortium," the complaint says.

Plaintiffs in the seven remaining states can reportedly collect full recovery of damages, which includes child-rearing expenses "up until the age of majority."

Oregon is the most generous of the plaintiffs' home states, allowing its three alleged victims to also sue for their child's college tuition.

The suit was filed in the Philadelphia after the plaintiffs were denied class certification by a Georgia federal judge, according to multiple media accounts.

Lead manufacturer Endo is located in nearby Malvern, Pa. Subsidiaries Endo Health Solutions and Vintage Pharmaceuticals were also named as defendants, as was Patheon Inc.

A September 2011 press release issued by Endo confirmed the packaging error and issued a voluntary recall of eight different brands of pills, writing that "the daily regimen for these oral contraceptives may be incorrect and ... could leave women at risk for unintended pregnancy."

The error leaves the defendants liable for negligence, breach of warranty and strict product liability, the plaintiffs claim. The pharmaceutical companies are also accused of violating consumer protection laws by breaching their "statutory duty to refrain from unfair or deceptive acts in the manufacture, packaging, promotion and sale of the birth control pills to the plaintiffs."

Endo Pharmaceuticals corporate affairs spokesperson Heather Zoumas Lubeski declined to comment, explaining that it's the company's policy not to comment on pending litigation.

She did address the 2011 pill recall, however, writing in an email to Courthouse News, "The voluntary recall occurred based on an extremely small number of pill packs that were manufactured by an external contract manufacturer. Endo has been able to confirm only one blister pack that manifested a defect and was sold to a patient."

"Patient safety is our top priority at Endo, and we are committed to providing high-quality, approved products that are safe and effective," Zoumas Lubeski wrote.

In addition to Keith Bodoh of Robertson, Bodoh & Nasrallah in Marietta, Ga., the plaintiffs are also represented by Steven Beard, of Atlanta, and Walter Steinman, of Wyncote, Pa.

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