A recent lawsuit highlights the dangers many consumers contend accompany one of the most common antidepressants on the market: Zoloft. A Texas woman is suing in Pennsylvania federal court alleging that as a result of taking Zoloft during pregnancy, her now 9-year-old daughter was born with craniosynostosis. This condition causes fibrous sutures in a baby’s skull to prematurely fuse, turn into bone and, as a result, alter the skull’s growth pattern. The woman is suing on several product liability grounds including failure to warn of dangers associated with the drug, negligent design and constructive fraud. This is one of 500 lawsuits filed in a Pennsylvania multidistrict litigation forum against Pfizer, Inc. and other defendants alleging birth defects as a result of taking Zoloft during pregnancy.
Zoloft remains a very commonly used drug used to treat a number of mental disorders, including depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder and post-traumatic stress syndrome. Further, as recently as 2005, Zoloft was the most prescribed antidepressant drug on the U.S. retail market, with 27 million prescriptions dispensed.
Yet, despite their common use, there is some evidence that use of antidepressants, including Zoloft, may not be a good idea for pregnant women. The risks include:
1) Possible link to persistent pulmonary hypertension in the newborn (PPHN): Taking selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), such as Celexa, Prozac and Zoloft in the last half of pregnancy may increase the risk of PPHN. PPHN is a serious lung disorder that occurs when a newborn’s circulation system does not adapt to breathing outside of the mother’s womb.
2) Possible link to heart defects: Paxil, an SSRI, has been linked to fetal heart defects when taken during the first three months of pregnancy. Zoloft has come under suspicion for causing heart defects in the newborn as well.
Linking prescription drugs to birth defects can be an exceedingly difficult legal process.