Zoloft, SSRI Antidepressant Lawsuits Move Forward

SSRI birth defect lawyers at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm report that Canadian patients who took these antidepressants and whose children were born with serious birth defects are filing a class-action lawsuit against pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline (GSK). Additionally, just a month ago in April 2013, approximately 330 Zoloft birth defects lawsuits were filed in U.S. federal court.

The 330 Zoloft lawsuits were consolidated into a multidistrict litigation, established in U.S. District Court in Eastern Pennsylvania. The first trials are expected to being in September 2014. These lawsuits allege that Zoloft, manufactured by Pfizer, caused serious and life-altering birth defects in the children whose mothers took the drug while pregnant.

Zoloft is among the most popular of a class of antidepressants called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). It was approved by the FDA in 1991, and is now the most widely prescribed SSRI in the country. Unfortunately, Zoloft has also been associated with a myriad of adverse side effects, not all of which were initially included on the drug’s labels.

The link between Zoloft and potential birth defects was made public in 2006, when Pfizer and the FDA issued the first warnings detailing the risk of persistent pulmonary hypertension (PPHN, a life-threatening lung disorder) in a newborn. The FDA cited a study in the New England Journal of Medicine that found that the risk of PPHN was six times more common in newborns whose mothers took and SSRI during pregnancy. Since this discovery, numerous other birth defects have also been associated with Zoloft and all other SSRI antidepressants.

Among these birth defects include heart abnormalities, gastrointestinal defects, limb deformities, delayed development, autism, defects of the brain and spinal cord, Spina Bifida, and oral clefts, among other condition. All of the Zoloft lawsuits currently pending in Pennsylvania allege that the SSRI, when taken during pregnancy, increased the risk of delivering a child with serious birth defects. Plaintiffs are further claiming that Pfizer knew about this risk but failed to adequately warn physicians and patients about them.

Meanwhile, in Vancouver, Canada, a class-action lawsuit was recently filed against GSK based on similar SSRI birth defect claims. The lead plaintiff took Paxil during pregnancy for her anxiety disorder because her physician told her it would not have a negative effect on her child. Her daughter, now seven, was born with a hole in her heart, and is in constant risk for infection, requiring significant medical diligence.

The mother asserts that the true risks associated with this drug were not fully disclosed, and further questions whether Paxil is even appropriate for its intended use. Her case includes evidence from GSK’s animal studies from the 1970s, which detail the first reports of birth defects in pregnant mothers given Paxil. Troublingly, the exact same types of birth defects now found in children today were evident then, in lab rats. GSK, however, told consumers that there was no indication for any concern.

In the fall of 2012, a data brief was published by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reporting that there was a more than 400% increase in the use of antidepressants in the U.S. Today, an estimated 11% of all women take an antidepressant, and one article published in Scientific American estimated that over 13% of all pregnant women in the U.S. take their antidepressants during pregnancy.

Doctors were often told that untreated depression was more dangerous to the mother and her child than any effects SSRIs may have. This claim turned out to be largely unfounded, at the peril of thousands of children both with serious abnormalities. Other SSRIs subject to birth defect lawsuits include Celexa, Effexor, Prozac, Lexapro, and Zyban.

SSRI birth defect attorneys at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm urge anyone with a child born with a serious abnormality from a prescription taken during pregnancy to contact a skilled attorney as soon as possible. An experienced pharmaceutical lawyer can help you obtain maximum compensation for past and future medical bills, emotional distress, and pain and suffering.

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