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New Effexor Lawsuit Could Be One of First MDL Transfers

Even as the United States Panel on Multidistrict Litigation weighs Effexor lawsuit coordination, another complaint has been filed in the U.S. District Court where the federal MDL could be established. The latest complaint involves an association between taking Effexor during pregnancy and a heightened risk of a serious birth defect known as persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn, or PPHN.

The recent complaint was filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania on June 10, 2013. The plaintiff  and her Effexor lawyer allege that her use of the antidepressant during pregnancy led to the diagnosis of PPHN in her newborn daughter. The child was born in 2007 with this potentially life-threatening condition that occurs when the circulatory system does not successfully adapt to life outside the womb. The bloodstream is deprived of much needed oxygen, which leads to increased pressure in the lungs and oxygen deprivation of the vital organs.

Effexor lawsuit alleges serious birth defect

Newborns diagnosed with PPHN typically must be cared for in the neonatal intensive care unit, where they may be placed on a respirator to ensure sufficient oxygen gets to the lungs and the rest of the body. If standard treatment does not successfully correct the problem, a baby may require major surgery in its very early weeks of life. Once the condition is effectively treated, the child may continue to have feeding issues and can suffer from permanent hearing loss.

PPHN has been linked to the use of some types of antidepressants, including selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs). Effexor (venlafaxine) falls into the latter category. In July, 2006, the FDA issued an alert linking use of SSRIs and SNRIs during pregnancy to an increased risk of PPHN.

New lawsuit follows motion to coordinate Effexor complaints

This recent Effexor lawsuit comes on the heels of a motion seeking coordination of all Effexor filings before one judge in multidistrict litigation. Multidistrict litigation can be requested in situations where there are multiple complaints with similar allegations against a single defendant. Coordinating lawsuits into a single court prevents the possibility of duplicate discovery and conflicting rulings, for a more efficient legal process.

The U.S. Judicial Panel for Multidistrict Litigation will be considering the motion at a hearing session scheduled for July 25. The manufacturer of Effexor and defendant in the lawsuits, Pfizer, has indicated they are in agreement with the coordination of cases, which has been proposed for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. Currently, the MDL for lawsuits involving Zoloft, a similar antidepressant linked to similar side effects, is already underway in that same court.

Currently, there are more than a dozen cases involving Effexor pending against Pfizer, in seven different U.S. District Courts nationwide. It is expected that number will increase, due to the widespread use of Effexor, and the increasing awareness about the link between this drug and potential side effects. In addition to PPHN, antidepressant use during pregnancy has been linked to heart defects, limb abnormalities and other birth defects.

If the MDL is established in Pennsylvania, this recently filed Effexor lawsuit will likely be one of the first to be transferred to the coordinated proceedings.