Zoloft Birth Defect Lawsuits Consolidated in Federal MDL

A panel of federal judges has ordered that all Zoloft birth defect lawsuits filed in federal district courts throughout the United States will be consolidated before one judge for coordinated pre-trial proceedings as part of an MDL, or multidistrict litigation. 

On April 17, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation centralized the Zoloft MDL before U.S. District Judge Cynthia M. Rufe in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

The decision affects at least 57 lawsuits filed in six different federal districts across the country. In addition, more than 35 other pending actions have been identified by the parties and as new cases are filed by Zoloft lawyers in federal courts throughout the United States, they will also be transferred into the MDL.

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The lawsuits were filed by the families of children born with severe birth defects or malformations after the mothers were given Zoloft during pregnancy. According to allegations raised in the complaints, Pfizer failed to adequately warn consumers and the medical community about the risk of birth defects from side effects of Zoloft.

Zoloft (sertraline) was introduced by Pfizer in 1991 for the treatment of depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder and anxiety. By 2007 there were nearly 30 million prescriptions, making it the most prescribed antidepressant in the United States.

Exposure to Zoloft and other SSRI antidepressants has been linked to serious and potentially life-threatening health problems for babies, including persistent pulmonary hypertension in newborns (PPHN), spina bifida, heart defects, lung defects, abdominal defects, cranial defects and other malformations.

The creation of a Zoloft MDL means that all lawsuits filed in federal court will be consolidated for pre-trial proceedings. However, if the parties fail to reach a settlement or otherwise resolve the litigation, they will be remanded back to their districts of origin for individual trials. The panel indicates that the consolidation will prevent duplicative and contradictory decisions and serve the convenience of the court and all parties.

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