In what appears to be the latest in a string of similar complaints, a New York couple has filed a products liability lawsuit against pharmaceutical giant Pfizer because their child was born with congenital heart defects after the mother took Zoloft (generic: sertraline) while pregnant. At least 137 other Zoloft birth defect lawsuits have been filed in federal courthouses throughout the country on behalf of children who suffer from health problems after being exposed to Zoloft in the womb. The new claim will likely soon be transferred to the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, where it will be consolidated into the Zoloft birth defects multidistrict litigation (MDL).
What’s the problem?
The new Zoloft birth defect lawsuit was filed on behalf of Jade and Jason Byington on July 13 in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. According to the allegations, Jade was prescribed Zoloft before she became pregnant and took the drug until the birth of her daughter, Sadie, in October 2003. The Byingtons’ claim that Zoloft caused Sadie to develop three specific heart defects, including an atrial septal defect (ASD), ventricular septal defect (VSD), and coarctation of the aorta (CoA). These congenital abnormalities have reportedly left the child with a lifelong disability that will require regular heart monitoring by her doctors.
Like other similar cases, the Byingtons claim that Pfizer knew – or should have known – that the maternal use of Zoloft during pregnancy has the potential to cause birth defects, and that it was negligent in failing to warn the public and medical communities about this risk. Additionally, the lawsuit claims that Pfizer actually encouraged doctors to prescribe Zoloft to women of childbearing age, women who were pregnant and could become pregnant.
“To this day, Pfizer has not informed women of childbearing age or even pregnant women that they should not take Zoloft,” the lawsuit claims. “Pfizer still targets these women as their primary market.”
First approved by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) in 1991, Zoloft is a widely-prescribed antidepressant from the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) class of drugs. It is commonly used to treat depression, anxiety, and other serious psychological disorders, but use during pregnancy has been linked to a large number of severe birth defects.
In addition to ASD, VSD, and CoA, Zoloft and other similar SSRIs have been linked to:
- Persistent Pulmonary Hypertension of the Newborn (PPHN)
- Tricuspid Valve (Ebstein’s Anomaly)
- Mitral Valve Prolapse
- Transposition of the Great Arteries (TGA)
- Transposition of the Great Vessels (TGV)
- Tetralogy of Fallot (TOF)
- Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome (HLHS)
- Hypoplastic Right Heart Syndrome (HRHS)
- Tricuspid Atresia
- Aortic Stenosis
- Pulmonary Atresia (PA)
- Patent Ductus Arteriosus (PDA)
- Truncus Arteriosus
- Tricuspid Valve Stenosis
- Heart Murmur
- Pulmonary Stenosis
- Gastroschisis – abdominal wall defect
- Esophageal Stenosis
- Anal Atresia
- Spina Bifida