Zoloft, also known by the generic name sertraline, is part of the category of medications known as SSRIs (Serotonin Selective Reuptake Inhibitor). SSRIs prohibit serotonin from being reabsorbed by the brain, which in turn boosts mood. Because of the success of SSRIs in treating depression, drugs like Zoloft have become incredibly popular in recent years.

Zoloft is produced by Pfizer. Founded in 1849, and now present in 180 countries, Pfizer is considered one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world. On their website, the company claims to be a leader in pharmaceutical research, and focuses on operating with transparency.

In 1999, after nine years of use in the UK, Zoloft gained approval from the FDA for sale in the United States. Within six years of it’s release, Zoloft became the most popular medication used to treat depression in the states.

The medication guide for Zoloft provided by the FDA indicates it is primarily used for depression but can also be used to treat the following conditions:

  • Major Depressive Disorder
  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
  • Panic Disorder
  • Posttraumatic Stress Disorder
  • Social Anxiety Disorder
  • Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder

Side Effects of Zoloft

Additionally provided by the FDA’s Zoloft medication guide are multiple side effects of varying severity. Individuals prescribed Zoloft should talk to their doctor if they are experiencing any of these symptoms.

Because of the nature of SSRIs, it is considered unsafe to abruptly stop taking Zoloft. And individuals who would like to discontinue its use are advised to speak with their doctors first. The potential side effects of Zoloft are as follows:

  • Individuals who have just begun taking Zoloft or who have increased their dose may experience suicidal thoughts or actions. They should reach out to their doctor immediately if they are experiencing these symptoms.
  • A potentially fatal condition characterized by extreme changes in mental status, fevers, nausea, muscle rigidity, changes in blood pressure, and difficulty with coordination known as Serotonin Syndrome.
  • It is possible that some individuals may have a severe allergic reaction to Zoloft. Symptoms included hives, difficulty breathing,  and swelling.
  • In combination with blood thinners or anti-inflammatories, Zoloft can cause abnormal bleeding.
  • Seizures
  • Mania, which has symptoms of excessive energy, insomnia, impulsiveness, extreme changes in mood, racing thoughts, and rapid speech.
  • Abnormal changes in weight or appetite.
  • Low sodium in the blood, which is a greater risk for older adults.

Zoloft Birth Defects

The FDA has categorized Zoloft as a class C pregnancy drug. This means that no studies have been performed on humans to determine the dangers of taking Zoloft during pregnancy. However, animal testing has shown that there is real potential for harm to the fetus if it is exposed to Zoloft.

Even though studies did show potential for harm to the fetus in animal research, Zoloft has been prescribed to pregnant women. Because it can be dangerous to suddenly stop taking Zoloft, doctors struggle to determine if it is better to put the mother at risk for preeclampsia, miscarriage, and early labor or to put the baby at risk of birth defects.

The potential birth defects or injuries for those mothers taking Zoloft include:

  • Craniosynostosis and Anencephaly: Craniosynostosis is a build-up of pressure in the skull due to the premature joining of the baby’s skull, which doesn’t typically fuse entirely until two years of age. Anencephaly usually results in death after birth and causes fetus’s to be missing portions of their brain or skull.
  • PPHN or Persistent Pulmonary Hypertension of the Newborn: this condition is fatal in 10% of cases and is characterized by an increase in blood pressure which creates breathing problems in the newborn. In a postmarket drug safety report released by the FDA in 2006, it was disclosed that newborns are six times more likely to have PPHN if their mothers are taking Zoloft during pregnancy.
  • Heart Defects: Both hypoplastic left heart syndrome and coarctation of the aorta are birth defect risks that may occur in pregnant women taking Zoloft. Hypoplastic left heart syndrome is caused by abnormal blood flow to the heart which prohibit the left side of the heart from developing properly. Coarctation of the aorta is an aorta which is more narrow than typical and it can causes serious health problems for newborns.
  • Club Feet: Deformed or mispositioned feet characterize this birth defect which is a risk factor for women taking Zoloft during their pregnancy.
  • Cleft Lip or Cleft Palate: In pregnancy, these birth defects typically form during the first trimester. SSRIs such as Zoloft taken during pregnancy may increase the chances of these abnormalities, according research concerning of cleft lips and cleft palates.
  • Autism: recent research suggests there may be link between the use of SSRIs during pregnancy and autism.

Breastfeeding and Zoloft

There are varying opinions concerning the risks of breastfeeding while taking Zoloft. Research has shown that small amounts of Zoloft transfer to breast milk, but it isn’t clear how risk this is for nursing babies. Because the risks are unclear, mothers should take caution when considering taking Zoloft while breastfeeding.

Zoloft Lawsuits

Even though research has shown there are serious risks factors when taking Zoloft while pregnant, doctors have prescribed Zoloft to pregnant women. Since being introduced in the United States, Zoloft has become one of the most popular medications for depression.

Because of new research about this drug which indicates the serious risk of birth defects when taken while pregnant, many lawsuits have been filed against Pfizer. In some cases, these birth defects can result in death and in many cases, the birth defect is a lifelong condition.

Some notable lawsuits pertaining to Zoloft include:

  • Kristyn Pesante and her son Loryn. Loryn was born with multiple heart defects after his mother took Zoloft during pregnancy.
  • Grandmother sues Pfizer because her daughter was not warned of the potential risks of taking Zoloft during pregnancy. Her son was born with multiple heart defects.
  • Mother in Oregon sues Pfizer after she was told it was safe to take during her pregnancy. Her daughter was born with an atrial septal defect.

In all of these cases, the mothers insist they would have never put their children at risk for birth defects if they had been properly warned that Zoloft was not safe to take during their pregnancies. They are suing in hopes of receiving compensation for their multiples procedures their children have needed since birth.

When potential danger exists when taking a medication, it the responsibility of pharmaceutical companies to make every effort to properly warn of these risks. Many lawsuits have been filed against Pfizer arguing they marketed Zoloft falsely as being safe for consumption during pregnancy.

Know Your Legal Rights

Pharmaceutical companies are responsible for informing consumers of the risks factors of the medications they produce. After taking Zoloft while pregnant, did you give birth to a child with defects? You have legal rights and may have grounds for filing a lawsuit against Pfizer.

If you took Zoloft while pregnant, and your baby was born with birth defects, a one of our lawyers may be able to help you.