Federal Zoloft birth defects lawsuits consolidated as part of MDL

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All federal lawsuits alleging the antidepressant drug Zoloft causes birth defects have been consolidated in a single courtroom for pre-trial motions and proceedings.

A Zoloft Multidistrict Litigation has been organized in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. Judge Cynthia M. Rufe will preside over the MDL which is expected to include more than 100 lawsuits from women or the children of women who took Zoloft during their pregnancy. There are currently 57 lawsuits included with the MDL and close to 40 more may be added soon.

That number should increase gradually as recent studies have drawn more conclusive links between taking the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressant and serious birth defects and birth deformities, including spina bifida, congenital heart defects, a malformed heart, cleft lip, and cleft palate.  Taking Zoloft during a pregnancy can also cause persistent pulmonary hypertension in newborns (PPHN), defects to the cranium, lungs, and digestive tract.

Zoloft is the most popular of all SSRI antidepressants in a market overcome with varieties of the drugs. Zoloft prescriptions are written more than 30 million times annually in the U.S., according to a report on the MDL at AboutLawsuits.com. It has been on the U.S. market since 1991 and in that time, plaintiffs filing lawsuits believe Pfizer, makers of Zoloft, have done little or nothing to warn of the potential side effects an unborn child faces when their mother takes it during or prior to their pregnancy.

It is recommended that most pregnant women stop taking SSRI drugs prior to becoming pregnant. Consulting with a physician is always best but in many of the cases involved with the MDL, women weren’t likely to get such warnings because physicians were probably in the dark on the potential for birth defects as the patient.