U.S. pharma giant Pfizer (PFE) won big this week as a federal judge dismissed more than 300 lawsuits against the company.
The suits were part of a class action by hundreds of female plaintiffs alleging that Pfizer knew about a possible link between its popular antidepressant Zoloft and heart defects in newborns. The plaintiffs said that Pfizer had failed to warn pregnant women about the risks, pointing to internal company documents in which at least one scientist warned executives about the possible link.
But those arguments have done little to sway courts in the cases to date. Pfizer had already won a pair of jury trials relating to the Zoloft controversy.
“The court recognizes that the final scientific verdict as to whether Zoloft can cause birth defects may not be delivered for many years,” wrote U.S. District Judge Cynthia Rufe in her ruling dismissing the suits en masse. “Nevertheless, plaintiffs chose when to file their cases, and the court concludes that for the plaintiffs who have continued to pursue their claims, the litigation gates must be closed.”
While some of the cases may still proceed, Rufe’s decision to grant Pfizer’s dismissal request takes an enormous legal burden off its back.
Although Zoloft sales have waned in recent years amid patent expiration and competition from generics, it still brought in $375 million in sales last year.