Zoloft is a prescription medication given to patients suffering from depression, panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, PTSD, PMDD, and anxiety disorders. Though some have found the drug to be effective, others have suffered serious side effects. Many also believe their use of Zoloft during pregnancy resulted in their baby suffering serious side effects. There have also been accusations that Zoloft serves no purpose and there is nothing more than a placebo effect for users.
The manufacturer of Zoloft, Pfizer Inc., warns of a variety of side effects associated with the antidepressant. These include allergic reactions, behavioral changes, panic attacks, insomnia, anxiety, impulsive behavior, hostility, hyperactivity, a worsening of an existing condition, and suicidal thoughts or tendencies. Some users also experience side effects that include drowsiness, nausea, and changes in appetite, headache, weakness, seizures, confusion, altered heartbeat, rigid muscles, gastrointestinal disorders, shallow breathing, and changes in sex drive.
Birth Defects in Infants Exposed to Zoloft in Utero
Zoloft has been on the market since 1991 and thanks to an aggressive direct-to-consumer marketing campaign, is one of the most prescribed antidepressants in the country. Unfortunately, not all Zoloft users have positive experiences to report, and more and more users believe the drug might be linked to birth defects.
More than 250 lawsuits are pending at the moment in Philadelphia accusing Pfizer of promoting the drug to pregnant women despite the risk for cleft palate, heart defects, skull defects, spina bifida, and persistent pulmonary hypertension. Babies exposed to Zoloft in utero could be at risk for a lifetime of health problems, and in worse case scenarios, the problems are fatal.
At the moment, there are so many cases against Pfizer regarding Zoloft the lawsuits have been consolidated into multidistrict litigation in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. The number of people suing the company is expected to grow in the near future.
Shady Marketing Practices?
The lawsuits related to birth defects is not the only Pfizer has faced. The company was also sued by a plaintiff in California who alleged her three year use of the drug accomplished nothing and that users deserve reimbursement for their cost. Pfizer and experts in the psychiatry industry, including the then president-elect of the American Psychiatric Association, described the suit as frivolous.
Part of the plaintiff's claim included accusations that Pfizer knew of the drug's ineffectiveness based on clinical studies, but did not make those results public, instead paying doctors to tout the drug and prescribe it to patients. The case was eventually thrown out when a judge ruled Plumlee had waited too long to file her suit.
The lawsuit was believed to be the first of its kind. Though Pfizer and many other companies have battled claims of drugs causing harm, this is the first time a drug has been accused of doing nothing. The suit also brought into question Pfizer's clarity and ethics in marketing practices, something that will continue to be examined in the remaining lawsuits. For more information about the suit see this article by USA Today.