Abbott is easily considered to be one of the most influential pharmaceutical companies in the world. For a time, the company also worked hand-in-hand with a similarly named company, a subsidiary called AbbVie. In more recent years, they have split with that company, but the history of lawsuits associated with both of them remain. It’s important to remember that this is a company that has been manufacturing both pharmaceutical products and medical devices since the 1800s. As a result, they have a lot of history behind them. They’re also responsible for some of the more well-known devices and medications used by patients, meaning that they tend to have a higher profile than a lot of companies who work in the same field. It should go without saying that having such a high profile would naturally mean that they would also be involved in a certain amount of lawsuits, as that is the way things work in this particular industry. That being said, they have been accused of some truly heinous acts where they were responsible for deaths of patients that could have potentially been prevented. If you’re wondering what the 10 biggest lawsuits in the history of the company are, look no further. They’re all listed below, ranked from number 10 to number one. Some of them have already been decided in court and some are still undergoing litigation. In a few cases, you’ll see that the company has been repeatedly taken to court for different aspects related to the same medical device or pharmaceutical product. Without further interruption, here is the list. You’ll undoubtedly be surprised by some of the things you read.
10. Humira ($2.24 million)
Humira is a drug that is commonly used to treat conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and other chronic diseases like Crohn’s disease. Unfortunately, the company was eventually accused of having knowledge that this particular drug could cause serious inflammatory issues that could ultimately result in things like nerve damage and even cancer. Furthermore, it was found through a series of lawsuits relating to such issues that the company had been warned by none other than the FDA that there were potentially serious issues related to this medication a full 20 months before they ever took any action whatsoever. In short, they were manufacturing copious amounts of this medication and making sure that patients got it, all the while knowing that there were potentially serious and even deadly side effects. While every drug has potential side effects, the problem here is that trials conducted by the company backed up everything that the FDA was saying. They even discovered in their own trials that there was a major problem and despite that fact and the fact that a number of patients had reported issues, enough to make the FDA send out an official warning, nothing was done. It was ultimately determined that they kept quiet because they didn’t want to interfere with their profits. Several people ended up taking them to court for damages. Just one such case that resulted in permanent nerve damage forced the company to pay out $2.24 million. The number of people filing lawsuits against the company for this particular medication is still ongoing, so there is no way to tell exactly how many times they will be sued for something related to Humira, nor is there a way to tell exactly how much money they will end up being forced to pay out because of their decision to hide the potential side effects of this drug.
9. Lawsuits Involving Kickbacks ($3 million)
This is another lawsuit that is tied directly to Humira. The problem speaks to the systemic issue that is present within this company and most other pharmaceutical companies in the United States. It involves the drug’s manufacturer providing kickbacks to doctors and clinics that rely heavily on prescribing it, even with the knowledge that it has potentially deadly side effects. In a case filed against the company within the state of Florida in 2018, there was even a nurse that went on record saying that she had been taught how to essentially convince patients who were concerned about the potential side effects of the drug that it was fine for them to take it. When asked why she was taught how to do something such as this, her response was that the facility that she worked for was getting kickbacks for every person that was prescribed Humira. This one lawsuit alone has resulted in the company being forced to pay back more than $3 million. Like the lawsuit listed in the above paragraph, this litigation is still ongoing in a number of cases.
8. St. Jude Defibrillator Lawsuit ($23 million)
The problems with this particular lawsuit began back in 2011. The company had just acquired St. Jude Medical and in doing so, had also acquired the medical defibrillators that are implanted into the chest of someone who needs such a device to help regulate the heartbeat. The problem was that the defibrillators were defective and the company reportedly knew about it for a full five years before they ever decided to report a single problem. These issues would often cause the defibrillators to fire when they didn’t need to and in some cases, it prevented them from firing when they needed to shock a patient’s heart back into rhythm. Eventually, the problem became so big that it resulted in yet another class action lawsuit, this time with the company paying approximately $23 million in damages.
7. Depakote Lawsuits Involving Pregnant Women ($66 million)
For a time, the company often insisted that Depakote be prescribed for pregnant women who were also suffering from seizure disorders. Unfortunately, there hadn’t been any proper studies conducted to determine exactly how the drug could potentially affect an unborn child. It wasn’t until a number of children were born with spina bifida and other birth defects that people began to put two and two together, realizing that many of these children also had birth mothers who had taken Depakote during their pregnancies. Eventually, a reasonable link was found between the two and the company faced a class action lawsuit that is still ongoing today. So far, roughly $66 million has been paid in damages. More is expected to come in future years.
6. Tricor Antitrust Class Action Settlement ($250 million)
Abbott became the subject of a great deal of speculation back in 2008 when it was determined that their top cholesterol medication, Tricor, was actually available in much cheaper generic versions that the company had deliberately blocked from sale to patients. Instead of making the drug available at an affordable price, the company prevented any such thing from happening and continued to charge exorbitant prices for their name brand. They were eventually sent to court in a class action lawsuit, one in which they were forced to pay $184 million. That number has since increased all the way to $250 million and counting.
5. Lawsuits Involving False Claims ($421.1 million)
This is one of the more wide sweeping lawsuits that the company has faced. It’s from several years ago, 2010 to be exact. The lawsuit itself involves reports of a number of false claims made by the company to the federal government about different medical devices and pharmaceutical products manufactured by them. To be more exact, the lawsuit involves the allegation that the company deliberately made false claims about what many of their pharmaceutical products were capable of doing. In some cases, the expectation that a patient could reasonably take a particular medication and experience a significant reduction in symptoms was reported, even though their own tests revealed something to the contrary. Even more troubling, there were times when substantial, even life-threatening, side effects were repeatedly observed through their own laboratory findings, yet the company deliberately hid those findings from the federal government in order to get FDA clearance. In many cases, it was alleged that they lied in order to get their products cleared faster when they knew that something was wrong. In some of these cases, they had clear evidence that there was a major problem for a number of years before doing anything about it. More often than not, nothing was done to remedy the situation until someone else reported the problem, typically through the process of filing a lawsuit against the company. Eventually, the company was sued for making all of these false allegations to the federal government. The ruling went against the company and they were eventually forced to pay $421.1 million in damages for various false claims involving a wide variety of products.
4. FreeStyle Test Strips Lawsuit ($450 million)
In 2013, the company was taken to court by the parents of second-year graduate student Abbie Harper. She suffered from diabetes and was using FreeStyle test strips to monitor her blood sugar. The lawsuit alleged that the test strips showed inaccurate blood glucose levels, thereby causing her to receive too little insulin for a consistent 48-hour period. Unfortunately, she died because of this. After her parents went public with the lawsuit, it was later determined that these same defective test strips were responsible for the ill health of at least six other individuals and the deaths of three more. Some of those cases are still in litigation today. As far as the case brought forward by the parents of Abbie Harper, the case was eventually settled for an undisclosed amount. The company was found to be responsible because it was determined that these particular test strips were defective, repeatedly causing them to provide a much lower blood glucose reading than the patient was actually experiencing. Again, it was brought up in court that the company was actually well aware of this problem, yet chose to look the other way because it was cheaper to continue selling the defective strips than to fix the problem. So far, approximately $450 million has been awarded.
3. Similac Baby Formula Lawsuits ($500 million)
This is another ongoing lawsuit. As a matter of fact, it is currently a class action lawsuit and lawyers around the country are actively looking for individuals who have been affected by the use of this particular baby formula. The reason that the company is facing the lawsuit is because it has been determined that the use of certain Similac baby formulas in premature babies can cause something called Necrotizing Enterocolitis, more commonly referred to as NEC. It’s a potentially deadly gastrointestinal disorder. Unfortunately, it has been determined that many premature babies who are fed Similac have suffered from this disease, with it claiming the lives of some of those victims. Since it is an ongoing class action lawsuit, it’s impossible to determine with any real level of accuracy how much the company will eventually be forced to pay out. That being said, the courts have already awarded payouts to the tune of $500 million.
2. Depakote Lawsuits Involving the Elderly ($1.5 billion)
The company has also been involved in lawsuits involving the prescription of a medication called Depakote for elderly patients who were suffering from dementia. The idea was that taking the medication could either slow the progress of dementia or in some cases, potentially reverse it. That is precisely how the medication was marketed as well. Unfortunately, that wasn’t what was actually happening. Many elderly individuals who had dementia and took the medication actually became far worse than expected in a very short amount of time. Many of them died. Eventually, the company stopped marketing Depakote to elderly dementia patients. They also agreed to pay out $1.5 billion in a class action settlement as a direct result of their actions.
1. Illegal Marketing of Depakote ($1.6 billion)
Last but certainly not least, you have the company making a whole host of errors related to Illegal marketing of Depakote, the third lawsuit on this list involving this one particular medication. In this case, it was ruled that they marketed the drug in such a way that it was illegal to do so, often targeting individuals that they felt could be influential in their bid to prescribe the medication to people whether it would truly be beneficial to that person or not. Eventually, they were ordered to pay $1.6 billion because of their actions.