Pfizer turns aside yet another case alleging Zoloft caused birth defects

In what has turned into a legal trifecta for Pfizer, it has won the dismissal of a lawsuit that claimed the use of the antidepressant Zoloft during pregnancy caused birth defects in a child. The decision comes after Pfizer has won two jury verdicts in recent months over the same claims.

Philadelphia state court Judge Mark Bernstein granted a summary judgment on Thursday to Pfizer ($PFE) and dismissed the case, a court docket shows. The dismissal came as Judge Bernstein also denied a request by the plaintiffs to add to the testimony of their expert.

The case had been brought by a couple over the alleged risks of birth defects from Zoloft, which they claimed had caused their son, who was born 9 weeks early, to be born with certain organs contained in a sac outside the abdomen, according to court documents. Earlier this month, the judge had disallowed the testimony of two experts, according to Law360, citing the Associated Press.

In an emailed statement, Pfizer said: "Today's summary judgment ruling, which follows two jury verdicts in recent months in favor of Pfizer in the Zoloft litigation, affirms that that there is no reliable scientific evidence demonstrating that Zoloft causes the injuries alleged by the plaintiffs."

In June a jury favored Pfizer in another case in a Philadelphia court brought on behalf of Mia Robinson who was born with a heart defect that the case alleged stemmed from her mother using Zoloft during pregnancy. The jury found in Pfizer's favor even after hearing testimony that company researchers in 1988 found more than a dozen side-effect reports about birth defects, and concluded that Zoloft couldn't be ruled out as a cause. That win came after a St. Louis jury in April found in Pfizer's favor in the case of 11-year-old whose family was asking for $2.7 million in compensation for his myriad health problems, including heart defects.

Pfizer has contended that it has always kept the FDA and the public apprised of safety issues associated with Zoloft but that there is insufficient epidemiological evidence to link the drug to birth defects. But the FDA recently asked Pfizer to add information about possible links to birth defects to the Zoloft label. Pfizer says the FDA's request is part of a bigger initiative to reformat drug labels across the industry.

- read the Law360 account (sub. req.)

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