Pfizer may have lied about Zoloft birth defects. According to research reports recently uncovered in one of the many suits claiming Zoloft causes birth defects, there may actually be a true causal link. This is despite Pfizer denying such a link. The Big Pharma giant successfully defended one such suit in April; however, the tides may have turned.
Jim Morris, an LA-based lawyer who’s gone toe-to-toe with Pfizer in the past said, “I don’t see how they could go before a jury with a straight face and make that argument now that these documents have surfaced. A jury could easily find it to be a bald-faced lie to say there’s no credible ties between Zoloft and birth defects when your own people are citing studies and adverse-event reports highlighting the links.” Morris is not currently involved in any Zoloft-related litigation.
So, what’s in the heretofore hidden reports? You won’t believe it. Morris’ description of Pfizer telling a “bald-faced lie” is spot on!
The report, from 1998, details fifty side-effect reports from women who were on Zoloft while pregnant. Twenty-five of those reports detailed “congenital abnormalities” or “adverse events” and listed them as “possibly related” to Zoloft. Wait, it gets better!
Sixteen of the fifty cases detail birth defects and state that “there was no obvious cause,” other than the drug, for the defects.
Still, Pfizer insists the drug is safe for use by pregnant women.
Bald. Faced. Lie.
What else would Pfizer say, though? In 2005 alone, it made $3.3B from Zoloft, then the best-selling antidepressant available.
Could it be any worse? You bet your bottom line it could. In fact, it is.
Back in April (while the case that “Lizer” won was being heard), the then associate director of Lizer’s Worldwide Safety Strategy department’s epidemiology group, Francesca Kolitsopoulous, issued an internal report. That report stated that she’d read published studies showing a link between Zoloft and “cardiac malformations, which could be causal.” This prompted her to advise changing Zoloft’s warning label to show that these studies showed a potential causal link between the drug and birth defects. She stated, “While the risks may appear to be increased for specific birth defects, these defects are rare and the absolute risks small.”
Tell that to those who have been damaged by the product. Granted, statistically speaking, over one thousand human lives impacted by birth defects is a drop in the bucket compared to the number of users who weren’t impacted. However, humans are not statistics (sorry, actuaries!) and the toddler with three heart surgeries and a pace maker (the April case LINK) and his parents aren’t comforted by these words.
Neither is the plaintiff in “the Philadelphia case” as it’s become known. Ms. Robinson will likely require a lifetime of expensive medical intervention, which is why the suit seeks at least $2.4M in damages. Given the smarmy way Lizer hid the information, I hope she gets it, plus some, as there should be a large punitive damages award.
GlaxoSmithKline Plc felt the pain earlier over its Paxil antidepressant. It settled over 800 suits in 2010 alleging the drug caused birth defects. The settlement set it back $1B, though it had to cough up another $3B to settle a government probe of possible illegal promotion of its products, including Paxil.
Maybe GSK’s CEO can come hold Lizer’s CEO’s hand as he writes what I’m sure are going to be huge settlement checks. If he’s smart, that is. I’m willing to be there will be an appeal in the April case and that if any of the rest of these cases sees a jury, Pfizer will need more than a handholding.
Maybe some Zoloft?