USA — Similac baby formula maker Abbott is set to face a trial over allegations that its formula for preterm infants used in neonatal intensive care units (NICUs) causes a potentially deadly bowel disease.

 According to Reuters, this is the second trial out of hundreds of similar lawsuits in the United States.

Lawyers for Abbott and Illinois resident Margo Gill will present their opening statements to jurors in St. Louis, Missouri. The trial is expected to last most of the month.

Gill alleges that her premature infant developed necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) as a result of being fed Abbott’s products designed for premature babies.

NEC, which causes the death of bowel tissue, primarily affects newborns and has a fatality rate ranging from 15% to 40%.

While Gill’s child survived, the lawsuit claims that the infant now suffers from long-term health problems.

In response to the lawsuit, Abbott stated that the specialized formulas and fortifiers, like the one in this case, are considered part of the standard of care by the medical community.

They noted that, along with human milk, these products are the only available options to feed premature infants.

Furthermore, the company claimed that Gill’s child “suffered from a traumatic brain injury in utero and at birth, long before she was fed any Abbott products,” asserting that “no one is to blame” for her condition.

To date, approximately 1,000 lawsuits have been filed against Abbott, Enfamil formula maker Reckitt Benckiser, or both, in federal or state courts, alleging that cow’s milk-based formula products for premature infants caused NEC

More than 500 of these lawsuits are centralized in an Illinois federal court, with others pending in Illinois, Missouri, and Pennsylvania.

The lawsuits claim that the companies failed to warn that infants given their products are at greater risk of NEC compared to infants who are breastfed or given donor milk or human milk-derived formula.

The first lawsuit to go to trial against Reckitt Benckiser affiliate Mead Johnson in Illinois resulted in a US$60 million jury award in March to compensate the mother of a preterm infant who died of an intestinal disease after being fed the company’s Enfamil baby formula.

However, Reckitt has said it is appealing the verdict, arguing that the plaintiff’s case relied on unsound expert testimony, leading to a 15% drop in Reckitt’s share price and a 4% decline in Abbott’s share price.

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