Virginia mom files wrongful death suit in Zoloft MDL

A Virginia mother filed a lawsuit against Pfizer in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania in Philiadelphia, PA on May 30, 2013. She alleges that Pfizer, the makers of the Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibiter (SSRI) antidepressant drug Zoloft is responsible for the wrongful death of her daughter. The woman took Zoloft during her pregnancy, from November 2004 until May 2005, and gave birth in Norfolk, Virginia in July of 2005. The newborn girl died shortly after being born due to a hypoplastic left lung and bilateral hypoplasia.

The mother alleges that drug maker Pfizer knew or should have known about Zoloft risks to pregnant mothers. Studies have shown that these risks may involve septal heart defects (holes in the heart), spina bifida, autism, neural tube defects and persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn (PPHN).

SSRI antidepressants often are prescribed for depression, panic disorders, obsessive compulsive disorder and anxiety. Zoloft was approved by the FDA in 1991. By 2005, sales of prescription Zoloft topped $3 billion. Pfizer’s patent on Zoloft (generic sertraline) exired in 2006.

Zoloft litigation is moving forward. There currently are over 400 Zoloft cases pending against Pfizer. Lawyers for the families allege that Pfizer knew or should have known about the risks of birth defects linked to Zoloft use during pregnancy as early as 1991, yet continues to market the drug to pregnant women.

Over 336 Zoloft lawsuits have been consolidated into a multidistrict litigation (MDL) in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, PA, Honorable Cynthia M. Rufe presiding. Recently, 25 bellwether cases have been chosen. Judge Rufe entered a scheduling order setting the first Zoloft trial of the MDL to begin in October of 2014. The bellwether cases are intended to help both the plaintiffs and Pfizer predict the possible outcomes of future cases so settlements of the other Zoloft birth defects cases may be reached.

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