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Failure to Warn Claims Upheld in Prozac Birth Defects Lawsuit

A Prozac birth defects lawsuit brought in 2012 will proceed with both failure to warn and non failure to warn claims against Eli Lilly, according to a recent report by Harris Martin. Federal Judge Rebecca F. Doherty agreed with Magistrate Judge C. Michael Hill that the plaintiff’s non failure to warn counts were sufficiently pled under the Louisiana Product Liability Act.

The plaintiff in question filed her Prozac lawsuit based on allegations that her use of the antidepressant during pregnancy led to severe birth defects in her child. Eli Lilly tried to dismiss the amended case stating that the plaintiff failed to sufficiently plead the claims, as they didn’t contain allegations of defects in dosage recommendations or argue that a lower amount would have prevented her child from suffering birth defects. The lawsuit also failed to allege that the Prozac taken by the plaintiff diverged from Lilly’s performance standards, according to the drug maker.

Plaintiff’s claims upheld in Prozac birth defects lawsuit

In terms of  charges of failure to warn, Judge C. Michael Hill interpreted the accusation that Eli Lilly failed to adequately caution women trying to conceive of the possible birth defects linked with Prozac “to be allegations that inadequate warnings were provided to the prescribing physicians by the defendants, which caused the prescribing physicians to prescribe Prozac to [the plaintiff] because they were not warned, adequately, of the danger to women.”

The judge allowed the plaintiff to amend her causes of action to “hone her petition” in relation to her allegations. Judge Doherty of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana agreed with the magistrate’s decision and the plaintiff’s case will proceed against drug manufacturer, Eli Lilly.

SSRIs linked to increased risk for birth defects

Prozac belongs to a class of drugs known as SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor) – and is approved to treat symptoms of depression and anxiety-related disorders. Launched in 1987, Prozac (generic name: fluoxetine) was the first commercially available SSRI and has been prescribed to millions of Americans. Since hitting the market, the serotonin-boosting medication has been linked to serious SSRI side effects such as suicidal ideation, serotonin syndrome, erectile dysfunction and other sexual dysfunction, in addition to congenital birth defects in newborns.

Families who have filed a Prozac birth defects lawsuit argue that Eli Lilly was negligent in their duty to warn consumers and the medical community about potential SSRI birth defect risks posed to unborn children.  Complaints against the pharmaceutical giant have alleged the antidepressant caused heart defects, persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn (PPHN), and neural tube defects like spina bifida and craniosynostosis, among others. Eli Lilly continues to defend its blockbuster medication, and has yet to settle any Prozac lawsuits containing allegations of birth defects, though it has paid millions of dollars in cases involving suicide, suicidal tendencies and murder.

At present, all Prozac lawsuits are being handled individually in state and federal courts as multidistrict litigation (MDL) has yet to be established. Judge Doherty is currently presiding over the Zoloft products liability MDL, a coordinated litigation dealing with similar allegations relating to birth defects and SSRI use during pregnancy.