Lawsuits against Zoloft claim infants suffered birth defects

medium_59337771013 more lawsuits have been filed against drug manufacturer Pfizer, claiming that the drug Zoloft has affected infants in-utero which resulted in birth defects as a result of taking the drug.

Pfizer, along with Roerig, a division of Pfizer, and Greenstone LLC were named as defendants.

The mother plaintiffs were prescribed Zoloft according to the lawsuits filed on July 7 in Wayne Circuit Court.

They claim that they took Zoloft as prescribed by medical physicians while pregnant which led to their children being born with congenital heart defects such as atrial septal defect; multiple holes in the heart; neural tube defects; persistent pulmonary hypertension and other complications.

The defects and injuries are claimed to be in direct relation to the mother’s ingestion of Zoloft as recommended by manufacturers in product materials and prescribed by the doctors.

The mothers are suing because Pfizer did not make the risks known. They claim that Pfizer knew or should have known that Zoloft can produce such serious birth malformations.

According to the suits, the defendants knew or should have known about the congenital heart defects, persistent pulmonary hypertension and other defects and should have warned the plaintiffs about these side effects, prior to becoming pregnant.

Plaintiffs are seeking compensatory and punitive damages against the manufacturer to deter from further producing, marketing or selling the drug. They claim that Zoloft is “defective; dangerous to human health; unfit and unsuitable to be marketed and sold; lacks the warnings as to the serious side effects that can arise to pregnant mothers who take it and their offspring.”

Health Canada Warned About SSRIs Risks To Pregnant Mothers

In March 10, 2006 Health Canada warned women about the risks involved in taking antidepressant drugs from the Selective Serotonin Re-uptake Inhibitors class (SSRIs) — including Zoloft and Prozac — especially those who were pregnant or planning to become pregnant.

This warning was spurred by a study in the New England Journal of Medicine which linked Zoloft, Prozac, Paxil and other drugs from the SSRI class to a condition that could prove fatal to newborns called persistent pulmonary hypertension. The advisory states that a number of cases were observed where babies were born with this condition to mothers who took this type of drugs in the second half of their pregnancy.

Health Canada urged patients to not interrupt taking the SSRI medication but instead to discuss the issue with their doctors, as soon as possible. Interrupting SSRI medicine can result in various potentially lethal side effects.

The list of SSRIs that are prescribed for the treatment of depression and related ailments is as follows:

  • Wellbutrin (bupropion);
  • Celexa (citalopram);
  • Cipralex (escitalopram);
  • Prozac (fluoxetine);
  • Luvox (fluvoxamine);
  • Remeron (mirtazapine);
  • Paxil (paroxetine);
  • Effexor (venlafaxine); and,
  • Zoloft (sertraline).

Zyban (bupropion), a medicine that is prescribed for smokers who want to quit was also included as being harmful to pregnant mothers. The advisory stated that doctors should consider the cessation or continuation of SSRI in pregnant women only after the benefits to the patient are more pronounced than the risks to the fetus.

This is not the first time such advisories have been issued and lawsuits against the drug have been filed before.

Earlier this month, in a Zoloft MDL, U.S. District Judge Cynthia Rufe of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania barred the testimony of Dr. Anick Berard, an expert key witness who claimed to have done studies which linked Zoloft to pregnancy defects. The court had decided that Berard’s studies were inconclusive and not enough to suggest a direct correlation between Zoloft and injury in pregnant mothers. The defense argued that Dr. Berard “cherry-picked” studies that would support her claim and ignored those that were unfavorable of this position.

The court has barred Dr. Anick Berard from being able to testify further in the Zoloft cases consolidated in the MDL for having “scientifically unsound, unreliable methodology”

photo credit: kudaker