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Parties involved in federal Effexor lawsuits are scheduled to meet next week with the U.S. District Judge presiding over the litigation, as dozens of cases continue to move forward involving birth defects suffered by children exposed to the antidepressant during pregnancy.
There are currently nearly five dozen lawsuits pending throughout the federal court system against Pfizer involving claims that children suffered birth defects and malformations from Effexor side effects.
All of the complaints involve similar allegations that Pfizer failed to adequately research the risks associated with use of their antidepressant during pregnancy, and withheld important safety information from consumers and the medical community about the risk of becoming pregnant while taking Effexor.
Several studies have suggested that exposure to Effexor before birth may cause children to develop a number of different serious health problems, including heart defects, malformations or abnormal developments.
Since May 2013, the Effexor litigation has been centralized for pretrial proceedings before U.S. District Judge Cynthia M. Rufe in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, as part of an MDL or Multidistrict Litigation. Judge Rufe is also presiding over more than 500 Zoloft birth defects pending against Pfizer involving similar claims over their other popular antidepressant.
Attorneys for Pfizer and lawyers representing families pursuing a lawsuit over Effexor are scheduled to meet with Judge Rufe on June 8 for a status conference. According to a proposed agenda (PDF) submitted by both sides last week, the meeting is expected to focus on the status of discovery and the anticipated number of cases that will be filed, as well as coordination with cases filed at the state-court level.
As part of the ongoing discovery in the cases, Pfizer indicates that it has turned over about 1.8 million pages of documents relevant to the claims.
It is expected that Judge Rufe will schedule a series of early trial dates in the MDL, known as “bellwether” cases, which are designed to help the parties gauge how juries may respond to certain evidence and testimony that may be repeated throughout other cases.
Following these bellwether trials, if Effexor settlement agreements or another resolution for the cases is not reached, Judge Rufe may begin remanding dozens of individual cases back to the U.S. District Courts where they were originally filed for separate trials.