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Effexor Birth Defect Lawsuits Moving Forward in MDL

Back in August, at least nine Effexor birth defect lawsuit filings were brought in courts across the country. Due to the similarities of the claims, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Legislation ordered that they be centralized before U.S. District Judge Cynthia M. Rufe in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. The first Case Management Order issued on August 22 set up an initial status conference in Philadelphia on Friday, October 25 to get the proceedings underway.

MDL status conference for Effexor claims

The first status conference will iron out many of the administrative challenges in complex MDL proceedings. Before the meeting, the judge will appoint counsel for the plaintiffs and defendants. Lawyers who wish to serve in leadership roles have already submitted their applications. Judge Rufe will have a Plaintiff Steering Committee established by the time of the first conference. Any objections to counsel leaders must be raised by October 15.

Prior to the conference, both parties will need to submit a written, non-binding position statement to illustrate an understanding of the facts in the Effexor litigation and to address any factual or legal discrepancies that may come up. The complete meeting agenda will be drawn up by October 18. Usually the status conference determines the trial dates, how long the trials will take and how the Defendant will plead.

Bellwether trials set the tone for Effexor lawsuits

Within 14 days of the October 25 status conference, the Steering Committee will be expected to have a plan in place for the discovery stage of litigation. They will seek initial disclosures, depositions and other documents to prepare their respective cases for court proceedings.

Meanwhile, bellwether trials will be selected to help both parties gauge how juries may respond to the evidence presented. Unless a settlement is reached, each case may be remanded back to the U.S. District Court where it was filed and scheduled as an individual trial. Often trials can get delayed at this stage if both sides cannot come to an agreement on which Effexor lawsuits should be selected to represent the MDL.

Effexor birth defects litigation

Now that the wheels are in motion, the Effexor MDL is expected to grow into hundreds of liability lawsuits. Effexor is a popular Serotonin Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitor (SNRI) that is manufactured by Pfizer and marketed by Pfizer’s Wyeth subsidiary. In 2007, it was the 6th most commonly prescribed antidepressant on the U.S. market with 17.2 million prescriptions.

Plaintiffs who have filed an Effexor birth defect lawsuit allege that their children suffered side effects such as pulmonary hypertension, respiratory distress, cleft lip, cleft palate, craniosynostosis, omphalocele and anencephaly. They also state that Effexor was promoted to pregnant women, despite side effects uncovered during clinical trials and animal studies, indicating that it may pose a threat to unborn babies. In recent years, other antidepressants like Paxil and Zoloft have come under fire for causing birth defects, resulting in large settlements.