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Lawsuit Claims Zoloft Caused Birth Defects in Arizona Child

A lawsuit filed against drug company Pfizer on June 27, 2012 charges that an Arizona child was born with multiple congenital birth defects after Zoloft use by his mother while she was pregnant. The child (referred to only as “G.S.” in court papers) was born on June 21, 2002 to mother Christa Yazzie. The lawsuit charges that Yazzie was never warned about the risk of birth defects occurring if Zoloft is taken during pregnancy.

Approximately 100 lawsuits are currently part of Zoloft MDL

Although both Christa Yazzie and her child live in Arizona, the lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania because that is the location of the Zoloft MDL. The MDL, which was established in April 2012, currently contains approximately 100 lawsuits, and is being overseen by District Judge Cynthia M. Rowley.

Studies show risk of Zoloft birth defects

Zoloft (setraline hydrochloride) is in the class of antidepressants known as selective seratonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs. Studies have shown that women who take Zoloft while pregnant have an increased risk of having a baby with birth defects, especially if they took the drug during the third trimester. A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2007 found that babies who were exposed to Zoloft during their gestation had twice the risk of having cardiac birth defects than babies who were not exposed to the drug. Simlarly, a 2009 study that looked at the data from 500,000 births in the Danish birth registry found that there was an increased prevalence of septal heart defects in babies whose mothers had used Zoloft or Celexa while pregnant.

Other birth defects linked to Zoloft use during pregnancy include cleft lip and cleft palate, abdominal birth defects, neural tube defects, anencephaly (brain deformities), craniosynostosis (skull deformities), club foot and other limb abnormalities, omphalocele (a condition in which the baby’s intestine or other abdominal organs stick out of the navel) anal atresia (the partial or complete closure of the anus), and persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn (PPHN).

Yazzie’s lawsuit alleges that before Zoloft was approved by the FDA in 1991, Pfizer had done preclinical animal studies of Zoloft which showed the risk of injury to the fetus, including cardiac defects. The lawsuit claims that despite this evidence that Zoloft could harm fetuses, Pfizer went ahead and put the drug on the market anyway.

The multi-count lawsuit charges Pfizer with failure to warn, among other counts, and seeks compensatory and punitive damages.

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