Prescription Drug Defects: Zoloft
Pfizer, a New York City-based multinational pharmaceutical corporation, introduced the prescription drug Zoloft to the market in 1991. The original television ad has received a heavy dose of mockery over the years, and includes the pitch “When you know more about what’s wrong, you can help make it right.” Perhaps Pfizer can take their own advice regarding the dangers associated with Zoloft. The drug was one of the most widely prescribed antidepressants in the United States, and recently, it has been discovered that the drug is most likely linked to birth defects.
Zoloft belongs to a class of drugs known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI). The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has graded drugs in this class a “C” – meaning that it is known to harm animals taking the drug in large doses – but because research cannot be ethically practiced on human babies, there is little direct evidence to show the effect on unborn humans. Studies are now forming the connection to show how SSRIs increase the risk of birth defects when the drugs are taken during pregnancy.
Injuries Caused by Zoloft
Persistent pulmonary hypertension (PPHN) is a lung condition that prevents an infant from obtaining enough oxygen in the bloodstream – a result of not adapting to breathing outside of the womb. Severe cases can lead to organ damage and even death. The odds for a newborn to develop PPHN are six times higher if the mother took an SSRI while pregnant. In addition to PPHN, various complications including respiratory distress, cleft palate/lip, and heart defects are also alleged to be caused by SSRI use during pregnancy. A New York Times article citing Dr. Adam Urato, a maternal-fetal medicine specialist at Tufts Medical Center, states “Serotonin is a critical neurotransmitter and cell-signaling molecule.” Furthermore, “From the brain, it signals the neurons where to go, what to do and how to develop. It signals the heart; it plays an active role in the gut; and it plays an important role in the formation of the lungs. What it does during development is basically everything.”
New research proposes that developmental effects can stem from exposure to SSRIs during pregnancy. A John Hopkins University report states that boys with autism were three times more likely to have been exposed to SSRIs before birth when compared to typical developing boys.
Zoloft Birth Defect Lawsuits
Over 250 Zoloft birth defect lawsuits are currently pending in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania – and the number is expected to keep growing. The U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (MDL) ordered the condensing of federal complaints into multidistrict litigation in April 2012.
MDL allows for centralizing cases with a single judge and allows for greater efficiency in handling claims — however the cases remain separate lawsuits. The benefit of MDL is that the court can address issues that are common to multiple cases at once. A class action differs in that it is a single lawsuit with several claimants, and class-action members share in the same settlement or verdict.
If you or a loved one has questions about potential injuries sustained from prescription drugs, including Zoloft, please contact our experienced Fort Lauderdale attorneys at Boone & Davis to discuss the details of your case.