Zoloft side effects, settlements and how to find a lawyer
When a drug manufacturer is faced with an onslaught of lawsuits, they usually attempt to settle with plaintiffs and stay out of court. However, Pfizer has won most cases involving Zoloft, their blockbuster prescription antidepressant, and courts have determined that it does not conclusively cause birth defects. Find out more and whether you should contact an attorney.
A good product label is imperative, especially for medications. When it comes to side effects, both common and uncommon, a drug manufacturer lives and dies by what it has submitted to the Food and Drug Administration for review and whether their product label accurately describes what can happen if a drug is consumed.
This saved drug manufacturer Pfizer when it was sued by hundreds of individuals for side effects allegedly caused by their popular antidepressant, Zoloft. The medication proved to be dangerous to unborn children when their mothers were prescribed Zoloft while pregnant. Others claimed that Zoloft did not treat depression as prescribed.
Pfizer prevailed in the vast majority of litigation against them; some lawsuits were even legally barred from proceeding.
Overview of Zoloft lawsuits
FDA and state actions regarding Zoloft
Zoloft, also known as sertraline, is an SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor) was approved in 1991 for the treatment of major depressive disorder. By 2005, it was one of the bestselling drugs on the market, and even though Pfizer lost the patent in 2006, they decided to create a generic version.
Zoloft carries what is known as the “black box warning,” which is the strongest label handed down by the FDA. It means the medication causes serious side effects, including suicidal thoughts and behaviors.
Zoloft carries the black box warning, the strongest product label from the FDA. Tweet this
The FDA pressured Pfizer to change their label in 2015 to reflect potential harm to unborn children. At the time, their label stated that there are “no adequate and well-controlled studies” of pregnant women. Now, the label says the following (though not in the “black box” area): “Pregnancy: Third trimester use may increase risk for persistent pulmonary hypertension and withdrawal in the neonate.” Further down, doctors are supposed to advise pregnant women as to “possible risks to the fetus” before they start a Zoloft regimen.
Types of Zoloft lawsuits
Multidistrict litigation (MDL) is a type of federal pleading that groups together similar cases from all across the nation. By consolidating and not duplicating discovery, the cases are streamlined and proceed faster for everyone involved.
This type of negligence is called pharmaceutical liability, a subset of defective products. When a medication is brought under this type of review, it must fall under one of three categories:
1. The drug was improperly marketed
2. The drug was defectively manufactured
3. The drug had dangerous side effects
Most Zoloft cases have not been as part of MDLs; they have been brought as individual lawsuits or mass torts. Most published decisions have shown Pfizer winning claims over patients. As of 2016, more than 300 cases were dismissed for lack of a causal relationship between the medication and birth defects. Once summary judgment was entered for Pfizer and the federal court upheld the ruling, the only existing Zoloft MDL was dropped.
Enjuris tip: Experiencing pain and alarming symptoms or side effects after taking Zoloft? Speak with your doctor first and eliminate other possibilities before pursuing a lawsuit.
Patients claimed that Pfizer knew the medication would harm people, but put sold it anyway. The label did not warn of potential risks and complications; Pfizer knew or should have known its product was dangerous, since they sold it for uses not approved by the FDA.
Other claims include:
Failure to provide adequate warnings
Deceptive and aggressive marketing
Concealment of side effects
Misrepresentation of medical benefits
The issue that plaintiffs cannot seem to overcome is that a doctor works as a “learned intermediary” between the pharmaceutical company and the patient. Because doctors are supposed to warn patients of side effects (and because jurors felt the Zoloft label provided sufficient notice), the pharmaceutical company is off the hook.
Plaintiffs can pursue claims through state court if the defendant is located within their home state. If the defendant is headquartered in another state, the case must be filed in federal court. This is because of something called “diversity jurisdiction.” Generally, a case will go through state court unless the claim a.) involves the U.S. Constitution or federal laws, b.) has citizens from different states as parties, c.) the United States is a party, d.) involves copyright, patent, bankruptcy, maritime or trademark issues, and/or e.) the amount in controversy is more than $75,000.
Enjuris tip: Should your pharmaceutical liability lawsuit be brought alone, or as part of a mass tort or class action? A products liability lawyer can help you determine which is best.
State courts have been more favorable to Pfizer, but that doesn’t mean a case cannot be pursued that way. If state court is a better option for your case, a lawyer can help explain the logistics of such a decision.
What to do if you think you may have a Zoloft lawsuit
If you think that Zoloft is causing side effects, your first place to go is to your doctor’s office. He or she will determine whether the prescription is causing pain, mood swings or other complications.
If you have dealt or are dealing with side effects and your doctor says it’s because of Zoloft, talk to an attorney.
This is a powerful antidepressant that has been used since the 1980s to treat major depressive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, premenstrual dysphoric disorder, panic disorder and social anxiety disorder.
Zoloft is also used off-label (meaning it is unapproved for such use by the FDA) to treat everything from autism to alcoholism, despite reports that there is minimal evidence the medication works to treat these conditions. Here are some others:
Possible side effects and complications caused by Zoloft