By Pat Murphy
The ingestion of Zoloft during pregnancy caused birth defects in the children of eight couples, according to a lawsuit filed in Illinois state court.
The product liability suit against drug maker Pfizer was filed Nov. 4 in St. Clair County Circuit Court. Two of the plaintiffs are Illinois residents. The other plaintiffs are from Indiana, Minnesota, Florida, Wisconsin, Texas and New York.
The complaint, filed by attorneys Christopher Cueto and Michael Gras of Belleville, Ill., states that “Pfizer knew or should have known that Zoloft crosses the placenta, which could have important implications for the developing fetus.”
Zoloft is in the class of antidepressants known as SSRIs, or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors. These drugs have been more prominently associated with product liability claims involving patient suicides.
However, in 2006, the FDA issued a drug alert warning that infants born to mothers who took Zoloft and other SSRIs after the 20th week of pregnancy were six times more likely to have persistent pulmonary hypertension than infants born to mothers who did not take antidepressants during pregnancy. Other studies have reportedly linked anencephaly with a mother’s use of SSRIs during pregnancy.
The plaintiffs in the Illinois action alleged that their babies were born with varying birth defects, including heart defects, neural tube defects, gastroschisis, omphalocele, craniosynostosis, cleft lip, club foot, anal atresia and limb reduction defects.
The plaintiffs alleged a “campaign of misinformation” on the part of Pfizer, claiming in their complaint that the drug company “hid important information about the risks of taking Zoloft during pregnancy” and, instead, chose not to reveal those risks “because it feared such information would cause Zoloft sales to plummet.”
A similar birth defect lawsuit was filed in September against Pfizer in Ohio state court.