Pregnancy and Pfizer
April 20, 2015 | Pharmaceutical Litigation
In the United States it is quite common to have your favorite television shows interrupted by direct- to-consumer pharmaceutical advertising. The commercials are generally filled with actors dressed as doctors advertising to you about a disorder you may have never even heard of. The actors in these 30-second clips are generally and miraculously made whole again after taking a specific prescription. They go fishing, ride bikes with family members, and smile broadly about their new lifestyle. The speech generally ends with a voiceover instructing viewers to discuss this drug with their physician. From restless leg syndrome, to testosterone shortages, or sexually transmitted diseases, a viewer can identify their own symptoms and then go to their physician to inquire about the particular brand they saw on TV. While this can be helpful, it can also cause otherwise healthy folks to try prescriptions they normally would not. One such drug that was heavily advertised throughout the U.S. is known as Zoloft.
The New York-based, multinational pharmaceutical company Pfizer is currently in hot water with more than 1,000 lawsuits over its product Zoloft. Zoloft was marketed as an antidepressant miracle drug. The commercials involved a rock-like blob that rolled around for awhile, experiencing fatigue and rainstorms. After taking Zoloft, the sun returned and the rock was happy again. This advertisement was seen, and arguably felt, by millions of Americans. Many of those Americans then went to their doctors to do exactly as the commercial suggested: talk about Zoloft. For several years it was considered a safe practice to prescribe Zoloft to pregnant women suffering from depression. The women were warned of included fatigue, nausea, or insomnia. Pfizer has now been taken to court for the additional side effects that women experienced as a result of taking Zoloft. Their newborn children allegedly experienced the side effects as well. The company made $2.6 billion in Zoloft sales back in 2005; it has been the most popular antidepressant since.
The Dangers of the Antidepressant
Many researchers now contend that antidepressants, including Zoloft, pose a heightened risk to newborns’ cardiovascular systems. This includes a greater risk of heart and lung defects in the infants. In St. Louis recently one family allegedly affected by Zoloft was the first to have its day in court. The family argued that their son was born with a hole in his heart. On top of that the baby was born with congenital defects and will likely need a heart transplant later in life. The child has already had multiple surgeries and needed a pacemaker a month after his birth. According to the plaintiff’s attorneys, Pfizer was aware that Zoloft could cause birth defects back before the drug was released in the U.S. in 1991. The warning that made its way through internal memos never appeared on the safety label. Pfizer’s lawyers argued that there was no credible study linking birth defects to Zoloft, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the drug for use by pregnant women. In St. Louis jurors found that Zoloft was not directly responsible for the baby’s injuries.
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