Ohio Woman's lawsuit claims Effexor caused fatal birth defect

BOSTON -- In what is believed to be the first lawsuit of its kind, an Ohio woman is claiming that her ingestion of the popular anti-depressant Effexor during pregnancy caused a fatal birth defect in her daughter.

"This ... drug was approved by the FDA in 1993, but the parties involved neglected to disclose the birth defect risks to physicians treating women of child-bearing age," said Philadelphia lawyer Thomas Anapol in a press release.

Anapol is one of six attorneys representing Glenn and Lauren Boyer in their product liability suit against Wyeth Pharmaceuticals and its parent, Pfizer. According to the couple's complaint, Mrs. Boyer took Effexor as prescribed by her doctor while she was pregnant with her daughter, Adelaide. The girl was born on Feb. 11, 2010, with severe heart defects, including a malformed aorta and mitral valve. Adelaide died shortly after her birth.

Product liability suits involving Effexor and similar antidepressants have generally involved claims asserting a risk of suicide. In 2010, GlaxoSmithKline, the manufacturer of the antidepressant Paxil, settled more than 800 cases alleging a link between the drug and birth defects.

According to the Boyers' attorneys, their lawsuit is the first to allege a link between Effexor and birth defects.

The lawsuit was filed Feb. 9 in the Pennsylvania Court of Common Pleas in Philadelphia.

The 17-count complaint includes strict liability claims for failure to warn and design defect, as well as claims for negligence, fraud and misrepresentation.

Christopher Coffin of New Orleans, La., is another attorney who represents the Boyers. He explained the Boyers' claim that the drug makers' fraud and misrepresentation led to Adelaide's death.

"It is likely that the defendants had evidence to the contrary of what was disseminated for public information," Coffin said in the press release. "To minimize and understate the risks was to place Adelaide and her family in an experiment they would never have consented to."

Published: Wed, Feb 22, 2012