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February 13, 2013 / Shehnaz M. Bhujwala

Class Action Filed Against Pfizer Inc. for Misleading Consumers About Zoloft’s Efficacy In Treatment of Depression

A class action lawsuit has been filed on behalf of consumers against Pfizer Inc., the manufacturer of Zoloft, a prescription drug used in the treatment of depression and other disorders. The complaint was filed in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California on January 30, 2013 by consumer law firm, Baum Hedlund Aristei & Goldman, P.C., on behalf of the plaintiff Laura A. Plumlee and all others similarly situated.

Ms. Plumlee alleges she purchased and ingested Zoloft for the treatment of her depression, having relied on the drug label for Zoloft and Pfizer’s extensive marketing and promotion, and believing that Zoloft would help her manage her depression. However, she claims, Zoloft was not effective in treating her depression over the course of the three years she took the drug, even after increasing her dosage from 50 mg to 200 mg per day. Ms. Plumlee filed the lawsuit against Pfizer because she, like many consumers across California and the United States, was misled into purchasing an expensive and side-effect-ridden antidepressant that, according to most clinical studies, was no better than a sugar pill in treating depression.

The complaint contains detailed information about results of clinical trials for Zoloft and internal company documents that suggest Pfizer was fully aware of Zoloft’s efficacy in the treatment of depression, and that it crafted its drug label to mislead consumers and prescribing healthcare professionals into believing that Zoloft is more effective at treating depression than it actually is.

The class action lawsuit seeks certification of two classes — nationwide and California-only — of individuals who “purchased and/or paid for Zoloft manufactured and/or distributed and/or marketed by Pfizer from December 30, 1991 (the launch date of Zoloft) until the present for the treatment of depression, and who are not seeking a personal injury claim against Pfizer related to Zoloft.” The classes, as defined, plainly exclude persons who have filed personal injury lawsuits or otherwise have personal injury claims against Pfizer and other defendants for birth defects and related injuries arising from use of Zoloft during pregnancy. Ms. Plumlee is willing to act as the class representative for both classes of persons.

The nation-wide relief sought is declaratory and injunctive relief. Ms. Plumlee is asking the court for an order declaring the following alleged facts: “(1) Zoloft’s drug label between 1991 to the present, was misleading or deceptive because it did not contain material information about Zoloft’s efficacy, to wit, the drug label failed to provide information about the majority of clinical trials demonstrating that Zoloft was no more effective than placebo in treating depression and specify the marginal benefit to treating depression observed in the two clinical trials purporting to show Zoloft’s efficacy; and (2) Pfizer intentionally, deliberately, or recklessly created and distributed Zoloft’s misleading drug label with regard to its efficacy description for depression.” The injunctive relief that is sought on behalf of consumers nation-wide would stop Pfizer from continuing to omit material information about the efficacy of the drug from Zoloft’s drug label. In other words, Pfizer would be required to honestly disclose to consumers and prescribing healthcare professionals the true efficacy of Zoloft in treating depression, which would provide consumers with important information that would allow them to make an informed decision about using the drug.

For Californians who used Zoloft between 1991 and the present day, additional relief is sought under three California consumer protection laws: California’s Consumer Legal Remedies Act (Cal. Civ. Code §§ 1750, et seq.), California’s Unfair Competition Law (Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code §§ 17200, et seq.), and California’s False Advertising Law (Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code §§ 17500, et seq.). This requested relief includes, among other things, refunds, restitution and/or disgorgement of Pfizer’s profits from deceptive and unlawful marketing, actual or compensatory damages, and punitive damages sufficient to punish and deter Pfizer and others from future deceptive and unlawful marketing practices.

If certified as a class action, the lawsuit could resolve claims on behalf of thousands or potentially millions of claimants who, like Ms. Plumlee, took Zoloft, having relied on Zoloft’s drug label and Pfizer’s extensive marketing and promotion that the drug was effective in treating depression. To be clear, pending personal injury cases against Pfizer alleging birth defects and related injuries from use of Zoloft during pregnancy would remain individual cases, separate and apart from the class action lawsuit. Such personal injury cases allege that Pfizer and other defendants, among other things, touted Zoloft as safe to use during pregnancy when it should have properly warned users and their physicians of known risks associated with use during pregnancy.

If you took Zoloft as prescribed during pregnancy and believe your baby was born with a birth defect, or if you or a family member has otherwise suffered an adverse health condition from use of Zoloft, please contact Khorrami, LLP to set up a confidential consultation.


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