July 12, 2012 — The popular SSRI antidepressant Zoloft (sertraline), has been linked to severe, life-threatening birth defects. In April of this year, a federal judge established a Multidistrict Litigation (MDL) to centralize individual lawsuits in one court. Today, attorneys involved in the MDL met for the first status conference in the Zoloft birth defect litigation.
The Zoloft attorneys will be discussing an overview of the litigation, including:
- Number and nature of the litigation
- Leadership roles and responsibilities
- State court litigation and the coordination of state-federal litigation
- Joint proposed case management order
- Schedule for filing and responding to complaints/answer
- Organizing the discovery process
- Setting dates and agenda for regular status conferences
During the conference, the judge overseeing the MDL is expected to appoint attorneys to serve leadership roles. The attorneys will conduct discovery, submit and argue motions in court, and negotiate any potential settlement with Pfizer.
Zoloft birth defect lawsuits have been centralized before Judge Cynthia M. Rufe in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. A Multidistrict Litigation (MDL) is unlike a class-action, in that individual lawsuits remain independent. The MDL is intended to centralize nationwide litigation, increase efficiency, and reduce costs.
The plaintiffs accuse Pfizer of failing to warn their customers and the medical community about the potential risk of birth defects when Zoloft is taken during pregnancy. All of the complaints in the matter are brought on behalf of children who had serious birth defects that occurred after their mother took Zoloft during pregnancy.
Zoloft has been associated with an increased risk of heart defects, abdominal defects, cranial defects, Persistent Pulmonary Hypertension of the Newborn (PPHN), and more. One study found that Zoloft increased the risk of omphalocele (a defect in which abdominal organs protrude outside the body) by 5.7-times. Another study linked Zoloft to a 3.3-fold increased risk of “hole in the heart” or septal defects. Other studies suggest that maternal use of any SSRI antidepressant could increase the risk of birth defects.