One down! Pfizer Inc. was cleared of any liability in the first of more than 1,000 U.S. trial over antidepressant Zoloft which was once the U.S.’s most popular mood-altering drug.
Plaintiff Kristyn Pesante stated that Pfizer failed to alert that using Zoloft during pregnancy could cause birth defects and sought damages after her son who was born with a rare, serious congenital heart problem.
Pfizer spokeswoman Neha Wadhwa said that the jurors in St. Louis, Missouri deliberated briefly before clearing Pfizer. Pesante had required both compensatory and punitive damages in accusing Pfizer of downplaying Zoloft’s risks in order to boost up sales.
Hundreds of lawsuits saying Zoloft can lead to cardiac and other birth defects have been filed in U.S. state and federal courts.
Wadhwa added that last Friday’s verdict is “particularly significant” since Pesante’s was the first case selected by plaintiffs for trial and presented much of the same medical evidence and theories underpinning other cases across the country.
Pesante’s 2012 lawsuit said that the mother took the drug during her first trimester due to depression and that her baby was born with a hole in his heart and other congenital defects.
But Pfizer has countered that there was no credible studies that found Zoloft caused birth defects and said that its stand was supported by individual medical groups including the American Heart Association, American Psychiatric Association and American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
Approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Zoloft is known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs, a part of a widely prescribed group of antidepressants.
This birth-defect allegations mirror claims against GlaxoSmithKline Plc over its Paxil antidepressant. In 2010, the London-based drug maker paid an undisclosed amount of money to settle some U.S. lawsuits linking another SSRI to birth defects.
The next Zoloft trial is scheduled to take place later this year in state court in Philadelphia.