The Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) has just created a new MDL (multidistrict litigation) proceeding in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. This new MDL has been formed in order to centralize the various state court claims alleging that Effexor, the serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor antidepressant causes birth defects when taken during pregnancy.
According to the JPML, centralization “will serve the convenience of the parties and witnesses and promote the just and efficient conduct of this litigation.” Of course, the Eastern District of Pennsylvania is also where the main headquarters of Wyeth, the pharmaceutical giant which produces Effexor, is located. Consolidation and centralization is an important process that makes complex litigation against pharmaceutical and medical device companies easier and more efficient for all processes involved.
Important questions that must now be answered are to what extent Effexor has caused birth defects, whether or not Effexor is defective in design and/or unreasonably dangerous, when Wyeth learned of a possible link between birth defects and their product, whether the drug was sold without adequate warnings of the risks of birth defects, and whether the Defendants intentionally or negligently concealed the possible link between Effexor and birth defects.
The new MDL will be overseen by Judge Cynthia M. Rufe, the same Judge who presides over MDL No. 2342 – which deals with the antidepressant Zoloft and its possible links to birth defects. The JPML explained that “claims regarding Effexor… parallel the claims as to the drug Zoloft… there may be some overlap between these litigations in pretrial proceedings, particularly as to expert discovery.” The panel continued by saying that “Judge Rufe… is in a unique position to guide this litigation… to an efficient resolution.
The FDA approved Effexor in 1993 for the treatment of major depression and Plaintiffs assert that Pfizer and Wyeth should have known or knew that the drug crosses the placenta during pregnancy. This poses a risk to a developing fetus. Thankfully, consolidation and centralization will likely answer Plaintiffs questions about the knowledge that Wyeth and Pfizer may have had over the past twenty years while it was selling the drug. The answers to these questions may lead to an equitable resolution and some semblance of justice for the lives of the mothers and children affected by the sale and ingestion of this drug.