Plaintiff’s medical causation expert in the national Zoloft litigation has been approved to testify in a Philadelphia, PA State Court by Judge Mark Bernstein. Pursuant to Judge Bernstein’s ruling, Nicholas P. Jewell, Ph.D. may testify as to Zoloft’s causation of heart-related birth defects when taken by pregnant women. Dr. Jewell is a Professor of Biostatistic and Statistics at the University of California, Berkeley School of Public Health. Dr. Jewell’s testimony is expected to apply only to heart defects in babies born to mothers who took the popular SSRI antidepressant Zoloft during pregnancy. Zoloft is manufactured by the defendant, drug company Pfizer.
Zoloft cases are pending in both State and Federal Courts. The Philadelphia, PA State Court ruling comes before Judge Rufe in the federal Multi-District Litigation (MDL) rules on the admissibility of Dr. Jewell’s expert testimony.
Judge Bernstein rejected Pfizer’s argument that Dr. Jewell reached his conclusions regarding transposition of the great arteries (TGA) by incorrectly correlating data relating to other birth defects. Rather, Judge Bernstein held that Dr. Jewell was correct in including the other studies because TGA is so rare that only a few studies exist on the birth defect. Judge Bernstein stated in his opinion, “Specific birth defects can be so finely isolated that insufficient numbers exist to ever demonstrate statistically significant results.” He went on to say, “Sometimes proper scientific conclusions must be extrapolated from the available data.”
Judge Bernstein approved of the Dr. Jewell’s methodology. “Not only was this methodology used by Dr. Jewell, but also used by investigators in peer reviewed published studies, defendant’s experts and Pfizer’s employees,” he held.
Another Plaintiff’s expert, identified in the opinion as “Dr. Abdullah,” ruled out other causes of his TGA. The ruled out causes include other medications, diabetes, gestational diabetes, obesity, smoking, alcohol use, illegal drug use and second hand smoke.