Bellwether Trial Begins in St. Louis over Pfizer’s Zoloft

Daniels Tredennick Pharmaceutical and Mass Torts 0 Comments

The first trials in the litigation against Pfizer Inc. over the alleged birth defect risks of its antidepressant Zoloft — one in St. Louis on Thursday and the other in Philadelphia in May — pose high stakes for all of the Zoloft plaintiffs, testing as they will the strength of expert testimony cut from the federal MDL, attorneys say.

The first trials in the litigation against Pfizer Inc. over the alleged birth defect risks of its antidepressant Zoloft — one in St. Louis on Thursday and the other in Philadelphia in May — pose high stakes for all of the Zoloft plaintiffs, testing as they will the strength of expert testimony cut from the federal MDL, attorneys say.

On Thursday, April 9, 2015, trial began in St. Louis, Missouri over Pfizer’s Zoloft, the company’s antidepressant drug, before Circuit Court Judge Margaret Neill. The Plaintiffs, Logyn Pesante and his mother Kristyn Pesante, allege that Zoloft caused Logyn Pesante to be born with multiple heart defects including TGA, or transposition of the arteries. Since birth, Logyn has undergone 25 procedures and 6 surgical operations. Logyn, now age 11, still suffers from heart issues and must wear a pacemaker.

In opening statements, Pesant’s lawyer Josph Zonies of the law firm Reilly Pozner LLP argued how Pfizer failed to warn doctors about the potential risks of birth defects when taking Zoloft during pregnancy. Zonies explained how Pfizer’s internal documents highlighted the potential risks of birth defects but that information was not included on the label seen by prescribing doctors.

A Zoloft internal report was introduced into evidence during the testimony of Robert Cabera, a doctor at a University of Texas institute that studies birth defects. Cabera was hired by Pesante’s family to testify as an expert on the causes of such defects.

Cabera told jurors his review of research on babies born with medical issues convinced him that Zoloft was clearly “a risk factor for birth defects, especially heart defects.”

A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2007 found pregnant women taking Zoloft faced double the risk of having a child with a birth defect, Cabera said.

When Zoloft hit the market in 1991, it quickly became a blockbuster drug for Pfizer. Its sales reached $3.4 billion in 2004. Zoloft and its generic equivalents are still the best-selling SSRIs on the market.

The birth-defect allegations against Zoloft mirror claims against GlaxoSmithKline over its Paxil antidepressant. The London-based drugmaker agreed in 2010 to pay more than $1 billion to settle more than 800 suits accusing the drug of causing birth defects.

The case is Pesante v. Pfizer Inc., 1222-CCO-2441, Missouri Circuit Court, 22nd Judicial District (St. Louis).

Leave a Reply