April 20, 2015 — A jury in St. Louis has cleared Pfizer of wrongdoing in a trial accusing the drug-maker of boosting profits by downplaying the risk of heart defects when Zoloft is used during pregnancy.
Before losing patent protection in 2006, Zoloft was the most popular antidepressant on the market and raked in $2.5 billion a year. It treats depression by influencing serotonin levels. During pregnancy, Zoloft passes through the placenta.
Several studies published in recent years have found evidence that Zoloft increases the risk of “hole in the heart” defects, abdominal defects, and more.
After a brief deliberation following the week-long trial, jurors rejected arguments that Pfizer should be liable for causing Logyn Pesante’s heart defects. The boy’s family sought $2.7 million to pay for multiple open-heart surgeries and the pacemaker implanted when he was an infant.
One juror told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, “There were so many unknowns that could have caused it.”
The decision is significant because it was the first-ever trial involving Zoloft-induced birth defects, and the first case selected for trial by plaintiffs’ attorneys. The jury declined to award compensation for personal injury, but did not rule on claims of causation or failure to warn, according to Law360.
Another state-court trial is scheduled to begin late next month in Philadelphia. The plaintiff, Mia Robinson, also claims Pfizer failed to warn about the birth defect risks associated with Zoloft. The first federal trial is not expected until next year.