A Missouri circuit court in St. Louis has cleared Pfizer of liability regarding accusations that the company's antidepressant Zoloft caused birth defects in a boy from California.
The trial is the first one to receive a resolution among the 1,000 lawsuits filed against the drug company concerning its once popular mood-altering product.
According to plaintiff Kristyn Pesante, Pfizer should be held liable for failing to warn the public that Zoloft could affect the health of pregnant women, causing birth defects in their unborn child. She claimed that the drug caused her son, Logyn, to have heart abnormalities.
Pesante and her family sought compensation for damages amounting to $2.7 million for the three surgeries her son had to undergo to address his heart problems.
Neha Wadhwa, a spokeswoman for Pfizer, stated that after the week-long trial, the jurors deliberated the case briefly but ultimately cleared Pfizer of liability.
The verdict does not bind the hundreds of other lawsuits against Pfizer concerning Zoloft's alleged side effects on pregnant women. Wadhwa, however, said that the drug company still views it as "particularly significant" since the Pesante case was the one selected by the plaintiffs for trial using the same medical evidence and theories included in the other lawsuits filed across the country.
In Pesante's lawsuit, filed in 2012, she said that Pfizer marketed Zoloft as treatment for depression in pregnant women with a low chance of developing side effects compared to other similar drugs. Pesante claimed that she did not know the risks, so she took the antidepressant during the first trimester of her pregnancy.
Pfizer disputes any scientific connection between Zoloft and the birth defects the plaintiffs are referring to. Several medical groups, including the American Heart Association, American Psychiatric Association and American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, have expressed support for Pfizer's position.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved Zoloft as one of a group of antidepressant drugs called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI).
In 2010, a similar case was filed against another drug company, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), involving its own antidepressant drug Paxil. Plaintiffs in 800 cases accused GSK of failing to disclose the possible birth defect risks caused by the drug. GSK agreed to pay $1 billion to settle the lawsuits.
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