Parents Allege Zoloft Side Effects Caused Heart Defects for Child

Pfizer faces a product liability lawsuit brought by a couple whose child was born with heart defects after Zoloft use by the mother during pregnancy, alleging that the drug maker failed to adequately warn consumers or the medical community about the potential side effects of the antidepressant on unborn children. 

The complaint (PDF) was filed by Jade and Jason Byington on July 13, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

Zoloft (sertraline) is one of the most widely prescribed medications in the United States.  Introduced by Pfizer in 1991, Zoloft is commonly used for treatment of depression, obsessive compulsive disorder and anxiety, but use during pregnancy has been linked to a risk of several types of birth defects and malformations.

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At least 137 similar Zoloft lawsuits have already been filed in U.S. District Courts throughout the United States on behalf of children who suffer health problems that were allegedly caused by their mother’s use of the antidepressant during pregnancy.

The Byington complaint will soon be transferred to the Eastern District of Pennsylvania,where it will be consolidated with other federal lawsuits over birth defects from Zoloft that are centralized for pretrial proceedings as part of an MDL, or multidistrict litigation.

Lawsuit Alleges Heart Defects from Zoloft

According to the complaint filed by the Byingtons, Jade was prescribed Zoloft before she got pregnant and took it until she gave birth to her daughter, Sadie, in October 2003.

The family alleges that side effects of Zoloft caused Sadie to develop heart malformations, including an atrial septal defect, ventricular septal defect and coarctation of the aora. The lawsuit indicates that the child has been left with a life-long disability that will require regular heart monitoring by her doctors.

Like other lawsuits filed throughout the country, the Byingtons allege that Pfizer knew or should have known that Zoloft may cause birth defects and warned the medical community and potential users about the risk.

“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.”

The Byingtons allege that Pfizer knew or should have known about the risk of becoming pregnant on Zoloft based on animal testing done before the medication was introduced. In addition to failing to provide warnings for consumers and the medical community, the complaint alleges that Pfizer actually encouraged doctors to prescribe Zoloft to women of child bearing age, women who were trying to conceive and even to pregnant women.

Zoloft Birth Defects and Malformations

In addition to heart defects, there has been a link between Zoloft and pregnancy use increasing the risk of children developing a number of different problems, including skull malformation, neural tube defects, abdominal defects, spina bifida and PPHN (persistent pulmonary hypertension in newborns), according to lawsuits.

Many of these birth defects and malformation can develop if the medication is used during the first trimester, which is a time when many women do not even realize they are pregnant.  Therefore, lawsuits allege that the manufacturer should have provided stronger warnings about the risk of getting pregnant while taking the medication so that women could take precautions.

It is expected that hundreds, if not thousands, of lawsuits will be filed by Zoloft lawyers throughout the United States.  As these cases are filed in U.S. District Courts throughout the country they will be transferred into the Zoloft MDL.


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