First Swiss public court case on Depakine-handicapped child 

The mother of a handicapped child testifying in a Swiss court hopes for damages from French drugmaker Sanofi, producer of Depakine. Keystone / Yoan Valat

The mother of a child born handicapped after she was prescribed Depakine in pregnancy has started testifying in a civil suit to claim damages. 

This content was published on November 13, 2020 - 12:25

This is the first public court case in Switzerland by victims of this drug, still prescribed for epilepsy and migraine but now known to be dangerous for pregnant women. 

Natascha Allenbach began testifying in a civil court in Geneva on Thursday, hoping for damages from French manufacturer Sanofi and the doctor who prescribed the drug. Her son Simon, now 19, has had serious medical problems since birth, including heart problems, malformation of the spine and neurological problems. 

She only found out the cause in 2016. "The doctors knew in 2003. Why didn’t they tell us?” she said.

Court decision ahead

The court must now decide if the family has brought the case too late because of a ten-year limitation, or whether this ten-year deadline is too short for a handicap where the parents could not have known the cause earlier. If the family win, they will be able to sue Sanofi and the prescribing doctor for damages. But the hearings are likely to take several months, if not years.

In Switzerland, 39 children have been born with brain damage in connection to Depakine use, according to a report commissioned by the government, but specialists say the figure could be much higher.

In France, several thousand children are affected. For the first time this summer a court there recognised the responsibility of the French State and Sanofi, ordering them to pay compensation to families of seriously handicapped children.

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