Residents from various states claim they or their spouse's ingestion of a popular anti-depressant during their pregnancies caused their children to be born with varying birth defects, some of which led to their children's deaths.
Lead plaintiff James Tyler Schuhardt and 38 others filed a lawsuit June 6 in St. Clair County Circuit Court against Pfizer.
In their complaint, the plaintiffs allege their children were born with various birth defects, including vascular malformation, a cleft lip and palate, club foot, heart disease, holes in their hearts, autism, a hole in the back of their heads, facial dysmorphism, learning disabilities, multiple kidneys, infections and missing earlobes.
The plaintiffs claim their children were born with these conditions because of the mothers' ingestion of Zoloft throughout their pregnancies. Had the parents known of the dangerous side effects of the medication, they would never have taken the drug, according to the complaint.
Instead of informing patients of the dangers of the medication, however, Pfizer instead tried to increase its sales by falsely marketing the drug, the suit states.
"Pfizer's sales force blitzed doctor's offices with literature and verbal presentations designed to convince doctors and consumers that Zoloft was a superior drug for treatment of, among other things, depression during pregnancy," the suit states. "Meanwhile, Pfizer hid important information about the risks of taking Zoloft during pregnancy. Instead, Pfizer chose to not to reveal the risks associated with taking Zoloft during pregnancy because it feared such information would cause Zoloft sales to plummet."
The plaintiffs blame Pfizer for causing harm to their children, saying the drug's manufacturer should have warned them of the potential dangers to their unborn fetuses. In addition, it failed to provide the medical community with adequate warnings, failed to continually monitor the safety of Zoloft and failed to release the results of testing that revealed the dangers of the drug, among other negligent acts, according to the complaint.
"Pfizer's campaign of misinformation succeeded," the suit states. "Millions of individuals, including plaintiffs, used Zoloft while they were pregnant and Pfizer made billions of dollars selling its product. Yet, Pfizer's profits have come at a heavy cost to Plaintiffs' health."
Not only were numerous children born with birth defects, but some also died within a few days after their birth due to the severity of their medical issues, the complaint says.
The plaintiffs allege products liability, negligence and violation of consumer protection laws against Pfizer.
In their three-count complaint, the plaintiffs seek unspecified compensatory damages, plus statutory remedies, a disgorgement of profits, pre-judgment interest, costs, attorney's fees and other relief the court deems just.
Christopher Cueto and Michael Gras of the Law Office of Christopher Cueto in Belleville, Robert L. Salim of Salim-Beasley in Natchitoches, La., and Kenneth T. Fibich of Fibich, Hampton, Leebron, Briggs and Josephson will be representing them.
St. Clair County Circuit Court case number: 12-L-307.