Treating depression often requires a bit of trial and error, as patients work with their healthcare provider to find a medication that helps stabilize their condition. However, Zoloft users who were pregnant at the time of their treatment may have been exposed to an unacceptable level of risk. This medication is linked to a number of troubling birth defects which may entitle patients to compensation.
What Is Zoloft and What Are the Risks?
Zoloft is an antidepressant that is part of a class of drugs known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). These medications work by regulating the levels of serotonin in the brain. This neurotransmitter is believed to affect mood as well as sleep and learning. Zoloft (sertraline chloride) is available in both tablet and oral concentrate. Most patients take 50 mg once per day.
SSRIs such as Zoloft have grown in popularity because they have lower level side effects than other antidepressant medications. However, Zoloft is thought to increase the risk of birth defects if a mother takes the medication while she is pregnant. Some of the birth defects that have been reported include:
- Facial malformations such as a cleft lip or cleft palate after taking Zoloft in the first trimester
- Heart defects, including hypoplastic left heart syndrome and coarctation of the aorta
- Club feet
- Craniosynostosis—a pressure buildup in the brain caused by premature fusing of the baby’s skull
- Anencephaly—a fatal defect where a portion of the baby’s skull and brain never develops
- Persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn (PPHN)—a serious condition that is fatal in 10 percent of cases
Zoloft use during pregnancy is also associated with an increase in autism, a developmental disability causing problems with social and communication skills. A Canadian study published in 2015 in JAMA Pediatrics found that women who took Zoloft and other SSRIs during the third trimester of pregnancy were 87 percent more likely to have autistic children.
Why Patients Are Pursuing Zoloft Lawsuits
Many of the lawsuits against Pfizer, the maker of Zoloft, have been consolidated under multidistrict litigation (MDL). The plaintiffs state Pfizer did not provide adequate warnings about the potential risk associated with taking Zoloft.
In April 2016, a federal judge dismissed the majority of the 300 lawsuits against Pfizer that claimed Zoloft taken during pregnancy caused birth defects. Pfizer also won two jury trials last year involving claims from women in St. Louis and Philadelphia who had children with birth defects after taking Zoloft while pregnant.
Despite these rulings in favor of Pfizer, women who believe their children have been harmed by Zoloft should not give up their fight for compensation. As researchers continue to investigate the link between Zoloft and birth defects, it may become easier to provide the evidence needed for a favorable verdict.
Note that other SSRIs have been subjected to similar litigation with positive outcomes for the plaintiffs. For example, GlaxoSmithKline paid over $1 billion in 2010 to settle 800 cases of birth defects linked to the use of Paxil.
Am I Eligible for Compensation?
Only patients who experienced Zoloft side effects are eligible to receive damages. You are not entitled to compensation if Zoloft successfully treated your depression or if you tried Zoloft briefly and your healthcare provider decided another drug would be more effective.
Minor children are not eligible to file Zoloft lawsuits, but their parents or legal guardians can file on their behalf. Adults with birth defects whose mothers used Zoloft during pregnancy can file on their own behalf without any parental involvement.
The compensation you may be eligible to receive will depend upon the seriousness of the birth defect. In complex litigation cases involving dangerous drugs, the manufacturer is responsible for compensating injured patients for medical costs as well as loss of earning potential. Punitive damages may also be awarded in cases involving particularly serious misconduct by the drug manufacturer.
We Can Help
The attorneys at Neblett, Beard & Arsenault have extensive experience in mass tort and class action claims involving dangerous drugs. We are passionate about advocating for the needs of people who’ve suffered injuries due to harmful medications. If you believe that you or your child suffered a Zoloft-related birth defect, schedule a free case review at one of our six convenient Louisiana locations.