June 11, 2015 / 5:52 PM / 4 years ago

U.S. jury clears Pfizer in second trial alleging Zoloft birth defects

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A U.S. jury on Thursday said Pfizer Inc was not responsible for birth defects in a young girl whose mother took its antidepressant Zoloft while pregnant, the second straight win for the company out of hundreds of similar lawsuits.

The Pfizer logo is seen at their world headquarters in New York April 28, 2014. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

Plaintiff Rachel Robinson claimed in her 2011 lawsuit that Pfizer failed to warn that using Zoloft during pregnancy could cause birth defects and sought damages from the company after her now eight-year-old daughter was born with a rare, serious heart problem.

Following a week-and-a-half long trial in state court in Philadelphia, jurors deliberated less than a day before returning a verdict in favor of the company, according to Pfizer spokeswoman Neha Wadhwa.

“While we have great sympathy for families affected by birth defects, this verdict affirms that the Zoloft label contains adequate, science-based information on the benefits and risks of the medicine,” Wadhwa said in an emailed statement.

Robinson’s lawyer did not immediately return a request for comment.

The Robinson case is the second trial involving Zoloft birth defects. In April, a jury in St. Louis, Missouri, cleared Pfizer of liability in a similar lawsuit. While the results of these trials are not binding on other lawsuits, the verdicts can help influence settlement negotiations and show the strengths and weaknesses of each side’s evidence and expert testimony.

Hundreds of lawsuits have been filed against Pfizer in U.S. state and federal courts accusing the company of downplaying the birth-defect risks of the popular antidepressant in order to boost sales.

Pfizer has denied that it acted improperly and said that a number of major medical groups, including the American Heart Association and American Psychiatric Association, have supported its position.

Zoloft is part of a widely prescribed group of antidepressants known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs. In 2006, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration warned there could be an increased risk of certain birth defects in children whose mothers took the drugs while pregnant.

After further review, the FDA in 2011 said it was premature to attribute SSRI use to birth defects and advised doctors not to change their prescribing practices for treating depression during pregnancy.

In 2010, GlaxoSmithKline Plc paid an undisclosed sum to settle some U.S. lawsuits linking another SSRI, Paxil, to birth defects.

The case is Robinson v. Wolters Kluwer Health Inc, in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas, No. 778.

Reporting by Jessica Dye; editing by Alexia Garamfalvi and Alan Crosby

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