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Parents Seek Damages for Child’s Zoloft Heart Defects

A new Zoloft birth defects lawsuit has joined the MDL (multidistrict litigation) currently proceeding in the U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Pennsylvania. Filed June 25, 2013, the case alleges that the mother took Zoloft during pregnancy, and later gave birth to a child with serious birth defects.

The U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) centralized all federal Zoloft lawsuits in Pennsylvania on April 17, 2012, forming MDL No. 2342. The consolidation allows both parties to share in pretrial proceedings such as deposition and discovery, increasing efficiency and reducing the risks of inconsistent rulings.

In this particular case, the plaintiffs allege their child suffered from heart defects because of Zoloft.

Facts of Zoloft birth defects lawsuit

According to court documents, the mother took Zoloft during her pregnancy, and her child was born suffering from Tetralogy of Fallot and Pulmonary Atresia, allegedly caused by the mother’s ingestion of the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressant.

Tetralogy of Fallot is a rare, complex heart defect in which there are significant problems with the heart’s structure. The condition is caused by a combination of four defects present at birth, which together hinder the heart’s ability to pump oxygen out to the rest of the body. A hole exists between the heart’s two lower chambers, the muscle of the right ventricle is thicker than usual, the main artery is located in the wrong place, and the pulmonary valve that directs blood from the right ventricle to the pulmonary (lung) artery is narrowed.

Babies with Tetralogy of Fallot often have a bluish tint to the skin, lips, and fingernails, because of low oxygen in the blood. Open-heart surgery is the only possible treatment, and typically occurs soon after birth. Most children survive into adulthood, but require lifelong medical care.

Pulmonary atresia is a congenital malformation of the pulmonary valve—rather than simply being narrowed, it is completely closed, obstructing blood flow from the heart to the lungs. The condition is the result of the valve failing to develop correctly during the first eight weeks of pregnancy.

Studies link Zoloft and heart defects

The plaintiffs state in this Zoloft birth defects lawsuit that manufacturer Pfizer knew about the risks associated with the medication, but failed to warn doctors and expectant mothers. As early as 1996, the New England Journal of Medicine published a study indicating that mothers exposed to SSRI antidepressants late in their pregnancies had babies showing significantly higher rates of prematurity, poor neonatal adaptation, significantly lower birth weight and length, and persistent pulmonary hypertension of a newborn (PPHN).

In September 2009, the British Medical Journal published a study indicating mothers who took SSRIs like Zoloft early in pregnancy were more at risk of delivering children with heart defects. In 2010, a study published in the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology reported that women who used a particular antidepressant during pregnancy had more than double the risk of delivering children with heart defects called “left outflow tract defects,” compared to women who had not used the drug.

Plaintiffs seek damages

The Zoloft birth defects lawsuit plaintiffs bring claims of defective design, failure to warn, negligence, and fraudulent misrepresentation and concealment. They seek compensatory and punitive damages.