August 8, 2013 — The U.S. Judicial Panel on Multi-District Litigation (JPML) has decided to centralize Effexor birth defect lawsuits into a one federal court. The JPML has selected the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, before Judge Cynthia M. Rufe. The location is convenient because Judge Rufe is already presiding over hundreds of Zoloft birth defect lawsuits.

The lawsuits claim that Wyeth Pharmaceuticals (a subsidiary of Pfizer) failed to adequately warn about the risk of birth defects from taking Effexor during pregnancy. Lawsuits allege that Wyeth marketed Effexor as safe to use during pregnancy despite scientific evidence to the contrary.

In January 2013, researchers published a study in which Effexor was linked to birth defects of the heart, abdomen, brain, face, and skull, including:

Multi-District Litigation (MDL) is a legal process that is similar to a class action lawsuit, but individual lawsuits remain independent. Cases filed in state courts are transferred into one federal court for coordinated pre-trial proceedings. Eventually, lawyers select “bellwether” cases to go before a jury. The jury’s decisions in these cases helps encourage settlements or other resolution of other lawsuits in the MDL.