Dozens of cases have been brought against Pfizer, the maker of the popular anti-depressant drug Zoloft, for alleged birth defects caused by use of the drug. The federal government has set up special court to help speed up the resolution of the growing number of cases from around the country.
Several studies have suggested there is a link between use of Zoloft by pregnant women with an increased risk in a wide range of birth defects in their newborn children. The list of alleged side effects in newborns is long and includes heart abnormalities, cleft tongues and palettes, retardation, and even fetal death. While most of these claims are related to the use of Zoloft during pregnancy, some have suggested that Zoloft can be passed to the infant through breast milk.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, even though concentrations of Zoloft in breast milk are relatively low, the drug does indeed pass through breast milk. They go on to advise speaking with a physician and monitoring your babies behavioral side effects and growth, should one continue to use antidepressants while breast feeding.
These allegations have been known since 2006, but they gained special notice recently as more and more studies related to the potential for birth defects have been released. Lawsuits are now being filed claiming that Pfizer marketed Zoloft as safe for pregnant women even though they knew the risks.
“Pfizer’s sales force blitzed doctor’s offices with literature and verbal presentations designed to convice doctors and consumers that Zoloft was a superior drug for treatment of, among other things, depression during pregnancy,” one suit states. “Pfizer aggressively promoted Zoloft as an improvement over other antidepressant drugs on the ground that Zoloft was less likely to cause side effects if taken during pregnancy.”
The FDA made a December 2011 decision to not add special warnings to Zoloft. The decision also came with information on the FDA’s findings on Zoloft. The statements were mostly limited to studies on Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors, like Zoloft, and pulmonary hypertension of the newborn (PPHN). The FDA noted that two studies showed an increased risk of PPHN and three studies showed there was not enough of an increase to suggest correlation.
There are already more than a hundred lawsuits against Zoloft, and that number is expected to grow. Earlier in April 2012, the federal government set up a multidistrict litigation court to speed up the cases against Zoloft. The establishment of this kind of court is often a precursor for class-action lawsuits. If the parties involved don’t reach an agreement, then the cases go back to individual trials, which is far more costly for the defending corporation.
Women who are pregnant and taking antidepressants should speak to their doctor about their options. The Mayo Clinic notes that while there are risks associated with taking antidepressants while pregnant, stopping the medication without warning could also adversely affect the patient and the unborn child. Women who believe they have been adversely affected by taking Zoloft during their pregnancy should speak to their doctor and an attorney.
Zoloft and Pregnancy: Birth Defects
Several researches for the past few years have associated the use of different antidepressant drugs like Zoloft with birth defects, along with a few other complications. These medications, also termed as serotonin reuptake inhibitors can seriously increase the risk of child birth defects when taken in the course of pregnancy.