Zofran was developed to prevent nausea and vomiting caused by cancer chemotherapy. However, doctors prescribed it for the treatment of morning sickness in pregnant women. GlaxoSmithKline is the world’s seventh largest pharmaceutical manufacturer and the maker of Zofran. There have been approximately twelve Zofran lawsuits filed in federal court. Lawsuits have been filed in the following states:
The complaints contain similar allegations which include that Zofran (ondansetron) was prescribed as a drug to treat the birth mother for morning sickness during the first trimester of pregnancy, and they all gave birth to children with various birth defects. These defects include:
- Atrial Septal Defect
- Cleft Palate
- Tetralogy of Fallot
- Ventricular Septal Defect
Lawsuits assert that the maker of Zofran, GlaxoSmithKline failed to warn women of the risks and dangers that Zofran posed to unborn children, and allege that GlaxoSmithKline improperly marketed the drug “off-label” to treat morning sickness in pregnancy.
On July 6, 2015, GlaxoSmithKline filed a motion with the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) requesting the court to consolidate all Zofran birth defect lawsuits before one single judge so that motions and pretrial discovery can be made more efficiently. Applying for the consolidation of individual lawsuits into a multidistrict litigation (“MDL”) is a frequent procedure utilized in mass torts that involve similar issues and allegations and in which a high volume of claims has already been filed or is expected. If GlaxoSmithKline’s motion is granted, all Zofran birth defect lawsuits brought in federal court will be transferred to a single judge in a chosen venue.
In the motion filed by GlaxoSmithKline, they argue that the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, which is centered in Philadelphia, is the most convenient venue for the MDL. They also assert that Judge Cynthia M. Rufe should be the judge assigned to administer the MDL, given her experience in managing two other MDLs which involve prescription drugs that allegedly caused child birth defects. As an alternate, GlaxoSmithKline suggests Judge Paul S. Diamond, who presided over a MDL involving thalidomide and its connection to birth defects would be appropriate.