May 17, 2012 – The first conference in the federal multidistrict litigation (MDL) for Zoloft birth defects lawsuits has been scheduled to take place later this summer. The meeting’s agenda will consist of discussing the structure of the litigation and to determine whether or not the cases will be resolved or go to trial. The lawsuits all involve similar allegations that pharmaceutical giant Merck failed to warn about the risks associated with taking Zoloft during pregnancy, and that the drug has the potential to cause a large number of potentially life-threatening birth defects to babies exposed to it in the womb.
What’s the problem?
U.S. District Judge Cynthia M. Rufe, under whom the Zoloft MDL has been consolidated, set a pretrial date earlier this month for an initial status conference on Thursday, July 12. At that time, legal counsel for each party will “suggest procedures that will facilitate the expeditious, economical and just resolution of this litigation,” according to the order.
At the conclusion of July’s conference, Judge Rufe is expected to appoint a number of attorneys to serve in various leadership positions in the litigation. These attorneys will be ordered to conduct discovery, submit motions before the court, and negotiate potential settlement agreements with the opposing parties.
At the time the MDL was originally consolidated under Rufe in April, there were nearly 100 lawsuits filed in U.S. District Courts nationwide on behalf of former Zoloft users who gave birth to babies with severe congenital abnormalities. Legal experts expect the litigation to grow in the near future as Zoloft lawyers continue to review and file additional cases in federal court districts.
First approved by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) in 1991, Zoloft (generic: sertraline) is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) prescribed for the treatment of depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and anxiety. By 2007, nearly 30 million prescriptions had been filled for Zoloft, making it the most widely-prescribed antidepressant in the country.
Unfortunately, over the past several years, Zoloft and other similar SSRIs have been increasingly linked to a large number of severe birth defects. Congenital abnormalities associated with Zoloft include:
- Atrial Septal Defects (ASD)
- Ventricular Septal Defects (VSD)
- 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)
- Coarctation of the Aorta
- Truncus Arteriosus
- Tricuspid Valve Stenosis
- Heart Murmur
- Pulmonary Stenosis
- Gastroschisis – abdominal wall defect
- Esophageal Stenosis
- Anal Atresia
- Spina Bifida