The ondansetron medication Zofran continues to generate class action law suits nation-wide. In 2011, the CDC reported that the anti-nausea drug doubled the risk of birth defects in children whose mothers took Zofran during pregnancy. Despite those findings, the drug was marketed as a “morning sickness” pill. Shortly after, the manufacturer of the drug, GlaxoSmithKline, reached a $3 billion settlement with the DOJ for illegally promoting several drugs including Zofran. Now, the makers of this product are fighting off a heap of class action lawsuits. These are being pursued by families harmed by the medication’s alleged side effects.
Most recently, the District of Massachusetts has consolidated at least 12 lawsuits related to birth defects allegedly caused by Zofran. The decision impacts questions of venue selection and litigation costs for the more than 1 million women taking Zofran every year.
Women who have given birth to children with abnormalities are claiming that GlaxoSmithKline never warned them that Zofran could cause birth defects such as cleft lip, cleft palate, heart defects, or club foot. The full list of observed birth defects includes:
- Heart defects
- Heart murmur
- Atrial septal defect
- Ventricular septal defect
- Hole in the heart
- Cleft lip
- Cleft palate
- Musculoskeletal Defects
- Fetal growth restriction (poor growth in the womb)
- Kidney defects
The large consolidation of lawsuits generated through the use of multidistrict litigation and class action decreases litigation expenses. Costs associated with discovery and expert witnesses, for example, might now be pooled together by many plaintiffs similarly affected by Zofran. However, some firms are choosing to file individual lawsuits. They hope to recover more appropriate settlements and damage awards for their clients.
Although GlaxoSmithKline may be the only defendant named in the pending lawsuits, other participants within Zofran’s stream of commerce may also be liable for failing to warn pregnant mothers about the risks associated with this drug. Drugs such as Zuplenz, for example, the bioequivalent of Zofran, might become the next target for lawsuits involving NVP medications.
Practicing personal injury attorneys might benefit from the referral fees associated with such wide-spread litigation. As this line of cases continues to develop it will be interesting to see which, if any, other defendants are included in the multidistrict litigation in Massachusetts. Joinder of parties could be a more complex legal question for the individual law suits being brought throughout the country.