Zoloft (sertraline) is an antidepressant used to treat such illnesses as depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and anxiety. However, since the drug's introduction in 1991, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued alerts regarding unreported side effects of Zoloft, some of which have led to litigation. Below, you'll find information about Zoloft lawsuits, the injuries that people have reportedly suffered due to taking Zoloft, and the people and entities that may be liable.
Injuries from Zoloft
Patients who take Zoloft have reportedly suffered a wide array of side effects, ranging from less severe symptoms, like stomach cramps and drowsiness, to life-threatening problems such as suicidal thoughts and heart problems. When manufacturers or doctors fail to report these side effects to the patient, Zoloft users may be able to sue for any unexpected injuries that result. The three main side effects that have produced Zoloft lawsuits are:
In 2004 and 2005, the FDA issued safety alerts notifying Zoloft users that the drug may cause suicidal thoughts or behavior, especially in children, teenagers, and young adults. As a result, Zoloft users must be carefully monitored by their doctors to watch for any signs of worsening depression.
Zoloft is also suspected of causing birth defects in babies born to mothers who took the drug while pregnant. These birth defects range from physical deformities, such as club foot and cleft palate, to severe heart-related defects. Among the most serious birth defects is persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn (PPHN) -- a potentially life-threatening condition that causes severe breathing problems.
Some users claim that Zoloft provided them no relief, despite the drug manufacturer's claims of successfully treating depression. In many cases, these patients experienced the harmful side effects of the drug without the advertised benefits.
Liability for Zoloft Injuries
Determining who might be liable for a Zoloft patient's injuries depends on the "learned intermediary" rule. The prescribing doctor acts as an intermediary between the patient and the drug manufacturer and therefore has a duty to tell the patient about the drug's effects. As a result, patients who aren't warned of the drug's adverse effects may be able to hold their doctors liable for failing to pass along the warnings from the manufacturer.
On the other hand, when the drug maker fails to warn the doctor about certain side effects patients who are injured by those effects may sue the manufacturer directly. Like all product manufacturers, drug makers have a duty to warn consumers about the foreseeable risks of harm to someone using the product as directed. In the context of medications, this means that drug makers must warn about the potential side effects so that patients are aware of the unknown risks and can properly prepare for them. Additionally, the drug manufacturer has a duty to list all of the side effects in any of its advertisements that are targeted directly at the patient.
Current Zoloft Lawsuits
Starting in 2012, there are still major Zoloft-related litigation proceedings working their way through the court system. One proceeding combines several lawsuits focusing on birth defects, while the other is related to claims that the drug doesn't work as advertised.
Numerous lawsuits have been filed across the country against Zoloft manufacturer Pfizer and other defendants, alleging that the drug maker failed to warn consumers that the medication can cause birth defects. Because all of these cases make similar claims and involve nearly identical legal issues, they have been consolidated through a process called "multidistrict litigation" (MDL).
Unlike a class action lawsuit where a few plaintiffs represent a large group, the plaintiffs consolidated through MDL represent only themselves. In MDL, the judge hears many lawsuits at once so that the same legal issues don't have to be decided over and over again. In the Zoloft lawsuits regarding birth defects, all of the cases have been put under a judge in the federal court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania who will schedule depositions and issue orders binding on all similar cases.
Other Zoloft patients have filed a class action lawsuit in the Northern District of California, accusing Pfizer of false advertising. Rather than suing for compensation for injuries due to Zoloft's reported or unreported side effects, this class action lawsuit argues that Pfizer made misrepresentations about Zoloft's effectiveness. Plaintiffs point to studies that found that Zoloft did not work as well as Pfizer claimed it did.
Get Zoloft Lawsuit Information Specific to Your Situation by Talking to a Lawyer
If your child has suffered birth injuries due to the use of Zoloft, consider speaking with a qualified drug and medical device attorney near you today. Because there are several groups of plaintiffs already in the court system, you may want to consider any legal options you may have without delay to best protect your rights.
Contact a qualified product liability attorney to make sure your rights are protected.