Women who delivered babies with birth defects after taking the anti-nausea medication Zofran have begun to file lawsuits against GlaxoSmithKline, the company manufacturing the drug.
These parents say that they were prescribed Zofran as an “off label” morning sickness treatment, and that exposure to the drug during early fetal development caused their children to develop major congenital abnormalities. In a wave of complaints, families claim damages for pain and suffering, as well as significant medical expenses.
Zofran Birth Defect Settlements
Medical experts have recently estimated that around 1 million prescriptions for Zofran are written to pregnant women every year. While the drug has never been approved for use during pregnancy, many physicians prescribe it to alleviate the symptoms of nausea and vomiting that the majority of pregnant women experience during the first trimester.
But now that multiple studies have linked Zofran to an increased risk for major birth defects, at least seven parents have filed individual lawsuits against Zofran’s manufacturer. With prenatal exposure to Zofran so common, the legal community anticipates that many other parents will bring their own claims for compensation in the future.
Once verdicts have been rendered in a portion of the previously-filed cases, many of these other cases may lead to a settlement.
Initial lawsuits are often called “bellwether” trials; they serve as test cases and are tried first during mass tort litigations. The results of these bellwether cases may result in meaningful settlement discussions.
How Do Settlements Work?
Depending on the decisions made in bellwether trials, pharmaceutical manufacturers may decide to settle other cases, instead of proceeding to trial in each individual case.
Settlements may be entered during a trial’s proceedings, or prior to its commencement. During a settlement agreement, defendant and plaintiff will meet to work out an amount of compensation that both parties find suitable.
Settlements can provide large, corporate defendants an opportunity to reduce defense and court expenses. They may also limit a company’s exposure to large verdicts, as well as decreasing continued scrutiny.
Settlements in Zofran birth defect lawsuits will only become likely after a number of the initial cases have reached trial and juries decide in the favor of plaintiffs.
While the ongoing Zofran litigation has started as a succession of individual personal injury lawsuits, if the number of cases mounts quickly, it is possible that many of the claims will be consolidated as mass tort claims.
This is called “Multi-District Litigation” (MDL): in Federal Court, multiple individual claims can be brought together for what is called the “discovery” phase of legal proceedings pre-trial. In discovery, the two sides of a dispute are allowed to gather evidence from each other. After obtaining the facts that are shared by all of the claims consolidated in the MDL, each lawsuit then proceeds independently of the others.
Multi-District Litigation gives plaintiffs an opportunity to manage the results of their claim, including whether to enter into a settlement agreement or proceed to trial, unlike in a “class action.”
Zofran Birth Defect Lawsuits
The lawsuits that have already been filed bring a number of serious allegations against GlaxoSmithKline.
Plaintiffs say that GSK unlawfully promoted Zofran to doctors as a safe and effective morning sickness treatment, without ever investigating its effects during pregnancy. They cite a lawsuit filed in 2012 by the US Department of Justice, in which the federal government charged GSK for marketing Zofran for use during pregnancy. Federal law prohibits pharmaceutical manufacturers from promoting their drugs for unapproved uses. Zofran has only been approved to treat the severe nausea and vomiting that often accompanies chemotherapy, radiation therapy and surgical anesthesia.
Moreover, these families claim that GSK marketed Zofran for use during pregnancy in the face of mounting evidence that the drug could increase the risk for major birth defects. Plaintiffs note a number of recent studies that have found increased rates of cleft palate and congenital heart defects among children exposed to Zofran prenatally. They also allege that GSK has been receiving reports of birth defects with suspected ties to Zofran exposure for more than two decades.
Plaintiffs claim that GlaxoSmithKline failed to warn patients and doctors of Zofran’s potential birth defect risks.
Find More Information About Zofran Lawsuits & Settlements
If these claims are true, any parent who was prescribed Zofran during the first trimester and then delivered a child with birth defects may be eligible to file their own claim against GlaxoSmithKline.
Joined by a multi-state of alliance of attorneys, Monheit Law is providing free consultations to any parent or birth defect survivor who believes that prenatal exposure to Zofran may have caused them harm. To learn more about the litigation or your own case eligibility, call 1-877-620-8411 or fill out our contact form.