April 17, 2015 — Closing arguments have been presented at the end of the first trial involving Pfizer’s antidepressant drug Zoloft, which plaintiffs believe causes birth defects.
Bloomberg reports that attorneys told a jury in St. Louis that Pfizer knew about research showing that babies exposed to Zoloft had a higher risk of heart defects, but failed to provide this information to pregnant women.
One critical piece of evidence is an internal report from Pfizer dated May 2014, which found that newborns exposed to Zoloft were at risk of congenital abnormalities.
However, Pfizer defends the safety of Zoloft, and told Bloomberg:
“[Pfizer has not found a] signal for congenital anomalies and that a comprehensive review of the literature did not support an association between use of Zoloft and birth defects, including cardiac anomalies. … Plaintiffs have taken a single statement in one document, summarized the results of a few studies, out of context.”
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Logyn Pesante, who was born with a “hole in the heart” and other severe heart defects after his mother took Zoloft during pregnancy. The boy, now 11 years old, was implanted with a pacemaker shortly after birth and has had three open-heart surgeries.
In 2007, a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine linked the use of Zoloft during pregnancy with a doubled increased risk of “hole in the heart” defects and a nearly 6-fold increased risk of an abdominal defect known as omphalocele.
Pfizer is now facing about 1,000 lawsuits accusing them of hiding the birth defect risks associated with Zoloft so they could promote it as superior to other antidepressants. In 2005, the year before Zoloft lost patent-protection, Pfizer raked in $2.6 billion in sales — making it the most popular antidepressant on the market, and the most popular among pregnant women.