U.S. District Judge Synthia Rufe ruled that plaintiffs in a multidistrict litigation alleging Zoloft birth defects can introduce a new expert to testify on the association between the antidepressant and cardiac injuries after three others presented by plaintiffs had been excluded by the court for not following proper research methodology.
Plaintiffs suing Pfizer will present as a general causation expert witness Nicholas Jewell, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley’s School of Public Health and its statistics department. Judge Rufe ruled that the evidence Jewell is expected to introduce regarding heart risks with Zoloft are of “critical importance” to the plaintiffs’ argument.
Pfizer, maker of Zoloft, unsuccessfully argued that allowing the new expert witness after previous failures was a litigation strategy. “The decision only enables the plaintiffs to put forward a new causation expert as to alleged cardiac injuries that the company will be permitted to challenge.
The multidistrict litigation against Pfizer was consolidated in April 2012. At that time, about 100 lawsuits had been filed against the drug company alleging use of Zoloft during pregnancy caused heart defects in developing fetuses. Pfizer denied the claims, but plaintiffs claim that Pfizer was aware of studies that showed the drug was dangerous to unborn babies and should have warned doctors and patients of this risk.
Zoloft is in a class of antidepressants known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs. Other drugs in this class include Paxil, Lexapro, Celexa and Prozac. Similar birth defects lawsuits have been filed against makers of other SSRIs.
Source: Law 360