Pfizer introduced the prescription drug Zoloft to the market in 1991. Thanks in part to its popular animated bouncing ball ads, Zoloft became one of the most widely prescribed antidepressants in the United States. In recent years, however, the prescription drug has been linked to dangerous birth defects.
More than 250 Zoloft birth defect lawsuits are pending in federal court in Philadelphia, and it is possible that the number will continue to grow.
Lawsuits accuse the multibillion-dollar drug company of actively advertising the drug to pregnant women even though studies show that Zoloft increases the risk of birth defects such as holes in the heart, cleft palate, club feet, spina bifida, skull defects and persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn (PPHN).
A few of these birth defects can be fatal, and children who survive are forced to spend much of their lives in and out of doctors’ offices to monitor their health. Some of these children suffer with these defects into adulthood. If you or a loved one took Zoloft during pregnancy and had a child born with a birth defect, you may be able to file a lawsuit against Pfizer.
Status of Zoloft Lawsuits
Because of the number of lawsuits filed against Pfizer – and because the number is expected to grow – the cases were consolidated in multidistrict litigation (MDL) in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania with Judge Cynthia M. Rufe presiding. Consolidating the cases helps the process move more smoothly and quickly.
Rufe appointed attorneys to the Zoloft Plaintiffs Steering Committee. These attorneys will be liaisons and manage the progress of the cases. There have already been millions of documents produced by the defendant in response to the plaintiffs’ request for records in what is called discovery. Pfizer is also scheduled to issue its defense to the accusations made by plaintiffs in their complaints. Ongoing status conferences are scheduled through mid-2013.
There is also a separate Zoloft lawsuit underway in Wayne County Circuit Court in Virginia that was filed by children – who are now adults — who suffered birth defects after their mothers took Zoloft while pregnant.
How We Can Help
Drugwatch provides the most current information on Zoloft side effects, treatment and the progress of lawsuits filed against Pfizer. In addition to the information we provide on our website, we also have a dedicated team of Patient Advocates who can assist the families of children affected by Zoloft birth defects. Each week, we help people whose lives have been affected by dangerous drugs like Zoloft.
Our team can help you learn about your legal rights by recommending experienced pharmaceutical attorneys. These attorneys can walk you through the process of obtaining compensation for injuries caused by Zoloft.
Why Should You File a Zoloft Lawsuit?
When drug manufacturers fail to warn about a drug’s dangers, innocent consumers can suffer devastating effects. Drugmakers have a duty to test their products for health risks and warn the public. When they fail in these duties, they face legal liability for the injuries they cause.
Among the most devastating injuries linked to Zoloft are birth defects, including:
- Atrial septal defects (ASD)
- Ventricular septal defects (VSD)
- Persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn (PPHN)
- Omphalocele (abdominal defects)
- Craniosynostosis (skull defects)
- Tetralogy of fallot (TOF) with pulmonary atresia
- Transposition of the great arteries
- Club feet
- Spina bifida
- Congenital heart defects
These conditions are potentially life-threatening. Understandably, parents of children who suffer these injuries experience heartache and mental anguish. In addition, they face the substantial medical expenses of treating congenital deformities. Attending to their child’s medical needs can lead to lost wages and make it even harder for parents to meet these financial burdens.
For these reasons, many are filing lawsuits against Pfizer seeking compensation to help with medical bills, continuing care for their child, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other damages. In some cases, juries may award punitive damages to discourage drug manufacturers from exposing the public to these types of adverse effects.
People Who Filed Zoloft Lawsuits
More than 250 people have already filed lawsuits. Each person has a unique story of how Zoloft changed a life. They all took the drug because they thought it would make their lives better, but instead their children were born with serious birth defects that permanently affected their quality of life. It isn’t just the families of these children, but the children themselves who continue to deal with these defects.
Ryan and Justyne Eaton of Wisconsin filed their lawsuit in January 2013 over the wrongful death of their daughter, Aubrey. Justyne took Zoloft while pregnant with Aubrey, and she was born with multiple birth defects, including malformations of the brain, severe fluid buildup in the skull that damaged the brain, and lung defects. Aubrey died as an infant, as a result of these defects.
The Eatons claim that Pfizer knew or should have known that Zoloft posed an increased risk of birth defects. According to the lawsuit, the drugmaker “took no action to adequately warn or remedy the risks, but instead concealed, suppressed, and failed to disclose the dangers.”
Other people who filed lawsuits against Pfizer include:
- Tyreke Reese, 21, of Boston filed a lawsuit in June 2012 against Pfizer after she suffered birth defects as a result of her mother taking Zoloft during pregnancy. Reese was born with multiple heart defects, including an atrial septal defect, which leaves a hole between the top two chambers of the heart.
- A couple from Idaho, Jade and Jason Byington, sued Pfizer in July 2012 after their daughter, Sadie, was born with a heart that was not formed correctly. The infant had an atrial septal defect, a ventricular septal defect and narrowing of the aorta.
- The Ciccone family of Pennsylvania was also affected by Zoloft. Denise Ciccone was prescribed Zoloft during her pregnancy, and as a result her daughter, Noelle, suffered birth defects, including clubbed foot and heart problems. Noelle was born in 2002, and the family filed the lawsuit in August 2012.
These and other lawsuits against Pfizer accuse the company of several counts of negligence, including:
- Producing, marketing and selling Zoloft, a dangerous drug
- Negligence for failing to warn the public, medical professionals and the FDA that Zoloft caused birth defects
- Failing to conduct post-marketing safety surveillance and report information to the medical community
- Failing to disclose the results of Zoloft studies
- Misrepresenting that Zoloft is safe for use by pregnant women
- Promoting and marketing the drug to pregnant women even when it knew studies linked it to increased risk of birth defects
- Failure to act responsibly and in the best interest of the public