In 1991, pharmaceutical giant Pfizer introduced the prescription drug Zoloft to the market. The drug is designed to treat depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, and other conditions. The medication took off in popularity in large part due to its catchy television and print advertisements. Unfortunately, these advertisements may not have gone far enough with regard to warning patients about the risks of dangerous side effects associated with the drug’s use. As a result, many patients are now pursuing legal action against the drug’s maker.
Currently, there are more than 250 Zoloft birth defect lawsuits pending in federal court in Philadelphia. That number may continue to grow. As a result, the cases were consolidated in multi-district litigation in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. Judge Cynthia M. Rufe is presiding over the proceedings. Multi-district litigation is a way of consolidating similar legal cases in order to allow them to proceed more quickly and efficiently. In addition, a separate lawsuit was filed in Virginia by children, now adults, who suffered harmful side effects as a result of their mother’s use of Zoloft during pregnancy. Further, a class action lawsuit was filed in California. A class action suit is different from multi-district litigation because a small number of plaintiffs are chosen to represent a large group. With multi-district litigation, plaintiffs only represent themselves.
Other lawsuits filed in various states have since resolved. In early 2015, a case filed in St. Louis ended when a jury found in favor of the drug maker after a weeklong trial. The jurors in that case found that Pfizer had issued a warning about the risk of birth defects. The jury also held that the plaintiffs failed to prove that the drug was the cause of the birth defects.
In March 2016, the first Zoloft lawsuit filed in federal court is scheduled for an early trial date. This case allows all parties involved with the multi-district litigation to gauge how juries might react to evidence. There are presently hundreds of claims that are a part of the multi-district litigation, which was established in April of 2012.
One thing that the lawsuits have in common is that they place blame for their injuries on the maker of the drug Zoloft. In the multi-district litigation action, plaintiffs allege that as a result of their Zoloft use during pregnancy, their children suffered birth defects. These defects reportedly include the following:
The plaintiffs further allege that had Pfizer provided better warnings about these potential birth defects, they would not have taken Zoloft during their pregnancies. During the discovery process, internal memos between Pfizer research scientists were obtained. These memos seem to indicate that Pfizer executives were warned that Zoloft could potentially cause birth defects. Pfizer, in return, argues that the statements were taken out of context. Other evidence further boosts plaintiffs’ claims, however. For example, a report from 1988 showed that the company’s researchers had created more than a dozen side-effect reports about birth defects in children born to mothers who had used Zoloft while pregnant. Once again, Pfizer has a defense. The company claims that it has always kept the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the public apprised of safety issues associated with the use of the medication. The drug has an official label that cautions against its use during pregnancy as well as the risk of suicidal thoughts.
If you were injured as a result of taking Zoloft, or if your child suffered birth defects as a result, it is crucial to seek professional legal guidance to ensure that your rights are protected. We encourage you to reach out today for a free consultation.