About Zoloft

Package of the anti-depressant drug Paxil
Package of the anti-depressant drug Zoloft

Sertraline hydrochloride (trade names Zoloft and Lustral) is an antidepressant of the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) class. It was introduced to the market by Pfizer in 1991. Sertraline is primarily used to treat major depression in adult outpatients as well as obsessive–compulsive, panic, and social anxiety disorders in both adults and children. In 2007, it was the most prescribed antidepressant on the U.S. retail market, with 29,652,000 prescriptions.

The efficacy of sertraline for depression is similar to that of older tricyclic antidepressants, but its side effects are much less pronounced. Differences with newer antidepressants are subtler and also mostly confined to side effects. Evidence suggests that sertraline may work better than fluoxetine (Prozac) for some subtypes of depression. Sertraline is highly effective for the treatment of panic disorder, but cognitive behavioral therapy is a better treatment for obsessive-compulsive disorder, whether by itself or in combination with sertraline.

Package of the anti-depressant drug Paxil
Tablets of the anti-depressant drug Zoloft

Although approved for social phobia and posttraumatic stress disorder, sertraline leads to only modest improvement in these conditions. Sertraline also alleviates the symptoms of premenstrual dysphoric disorder and can be used in sub-therapeutic doses or intermittently for its treatment.

Sertraline shares the common side effects and contraindications of other SSRIs, with high rates of nausea, diarrhea, insomnia, and sexual side effects; however, its effects on cognition are mild. The unique effect of sertraline on dopaminergic neurotransmission may be related to its favorable action on cognitive functions. In pregnant women taking sertraline, the drug was present in significant concentrations in fetal blood, and was also associated with a higher rate of various birth defects. Similarly to other antidepressants, the use of sertraline for depression may be associated with a higher rate of suicidal behavior.

The history of sertraline dates back to the early 1970s, when Pfizer chemist Reinhard Sarges invented a novel series of psychoactive compounds based on the structures of neuroleptics chlorprothixene and thiothixene. Further work on these compounds led to tametraline, a norepinephrine and weaker dopamine reuptake inhibitor. Development of tametraline was soon stopped because of undesired stimulant effects observed in animals. A few years later, in 1977, pharmacologist Kenneth Koe, after comparing the structural features of a variety of reuptake inhibitors, became interested in the tametraline series. He asked another Pfizer chemist, Willard Welch, to synthesize some previously unexplored tametraline derivatives.

Package of the anti-depressant drug Paxil
Package of the anti-depressant drug Zoloft

Welch generated a number of potent norepinephrine and triple reuptake inhibitors, but to the surprise of the scientists, one representative of the generally inactive cis-analogs was a serotonin reuptake inhibitor. Welch then prepared stereoisomers of this compound, which were tested in vivo by animal behavioral scientist Albert Weissman. The most potent and selective (+)-isomer was taken into further development and eventually named sertraline. Weissman and Koe recalled that the group did not set up to produce an antidepressant of the SSRI type—in that sense their inquiry was not "very goal driven", and the discovery of the sertraline molecule was serendipitous. According to Welch, they worked outside the mainstream at Pfizer, and even "did not have a formal project team". The group had to overcome initial bureaucratic reluctance to pursue sertraline development, as Pfizer was considering licensing an antidepressant candidate from another company.

Sertraline was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1991 based on the recommendation of the Psychopharmacological Drugs Advisory Committee; it had already become available in the United Kingdom the previous year. The FDA committee achieved a consensus that sertraline was safe and effective for the treatment of major depression. During the discussion, Paul Leber, Director of the FDA Division of Neuropharmacological Drug Products, noted that granting approval was a "tough decision", since the treatment effect on outpatients with depression had been "modest to minimal". Other experts emphasized that the drug's effect on inpatients had not differed from placebo and criticized poor design of the trials by Pfizer. For example, 40% of participants dropped out of the trials, significantly decreasing their validity.
Sertraline entered the Australian market in 1994 and became the most often prescribed antidepressant in 1996 (2004 data).

Package of the anti-depressant drug Paxil
Package of the anti-depressant drug Selectra

It was measured as among the top ten drugs ranked by cost to the Australian government in 1998 and 2000–01, having cost $45 million and $87 million in subsidies respectively. Sertraline is less popular in the UK (2003 data) and Canada (2006 data)—in both countries it was fifth (among drugs marketed for the treatment of MDD, or antidepressants), based on the number of prescriptions.
Until 2002, sertraline was only approved for use in adults ages 18 and over; that year, it was approved by the FDA for use in treating children aged 6 or older with severe obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). In 2003, the UK Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency issued a guidance that, apart from fluoxetine (Prozac), SSRIs are not suitable for the treatment of depression in patients under 18. However, sertraline can still be used in the UK for the treatment of OCD in children and adolescents. In 2005, the FDA added a black box warning concerning pediatric suicidal behavior to all antidepressants, including sertraline. In 2007, labeling was again changed to add a warning regarding suicidal behavior in young adults ages 18 to 24.
The U.S. patent for Zoloft expired in 2006, and sertraline is now available in generic form.

In 1999, Zoloft came under great public scrutiny after it was discovered that Eric Harris, one of the two shooters involved in the Columbine High School massacre, had been taking the drug before taking Luvox. Many immediately pointed fingers at zoloft and fluvoxamine.

Birth defects and effects on breast-fed infants

The studies comparing the levels of sertraline and its principal metabolite, desmethylsertraline, in mother's blood to their concentration in umbilical cord blood at the time of delivery indicated that fetal exposure to sertraline and its metabolite is approximately a third of the maternal exposure. The use of sertraline during the first trimester of pregnancy was associated with increased odds of the following birth defects: omphalocele (six-fold), anal atresia and limb reduction defects (four-fold), and septal defects (two-fold). Concentration of sertraline and desmethylsertraline in breast milk is highly variable and, on average, is of the same order of magnitude as their concentration in the blood plasma of the mother. As a result, more than half of breast-fed babies receive less than 2 mg/day of sertraline and desmethylsertraline combined, and in most cases these substances are undetectable in their blood. No changes in serotonin uptake by the platelets of breast-fed infants were found, as measured by their blood serotonin levels before and after their mothers began sertraline treatment.



Verdicts & Settlements

Scott has been involved in numerous and diverse settlements and verdicts throughout his 18 year legal career.  He prides himself on taking care of the injured people he represents.  Scott has represented individuals from almost every state in the country and can point to settlements involving millions of dollars. Whether it be a faulty medical device, a flawed manufacturing process, a failed prescription drug or some other issue that has caused personal injury, Scott has the experience, determination and the integrity to represent a client’s interests aggressively and see that justice is served. The following examples are but a few of recent notable accomplishments:

  • Hundreds of Scott’s clients from numerous states received monetary awards in the Silicone breast implant litigation. These cases involved defective leaking or ruptured silicone implants which caused significant injury, illness and/or damage to women who relied on the manufactures of the implants.  Scott worked with the women all the way through to verdict or settlement and was responsible for ultimately settling client cases for millions of dollars.

  • Scott represented clients in the Rezulin litigation which involved a drug used by diabetics. The FDA ultimately removed the drug from the market due to liver and cardiac adverse events. Scott was involved in hundreds of hours of document review and depositions in the U.S. and Europe.  He deposed corporate witnesses who designed, manufactured, marketed and sold the drug and his clients received exceptional settlements.

  • Scott and his partner Ed Blizzard were involved in representing hundreds of individuals who suffered as a result of defective Sulzer hip and knee implant replacement joints.  Scott and Ed worked at both the state and federal level and were instrumental in developing documents and deposing corporate witnesses so that ultimately a global settlement of all claims was announced.  Scott and Ed were able to secure millions in settlement for their clients.

  • Scott represented many clients who encountered problems as a result of the diet drugs Pondimin and Redux.  He was involved with discovery committees, reviewed thousands of documents and deposed many corporate witnesses.  He tried many of these cases to verdict receiving large settlements for his clients. In December 2000, Scott tried a case in Philadelphia for two ladies from Utah who developed heart valve damage after taking the diet drug combination known as Fen-Phen. After a two week trial the jury awarded each of his clients $100 million dollars. This $200 million dollar verdict stands today as the largest Fen-Phen valvular heart disease verdict in the country. Because of this verdict, Scott was inducted into the Million Dollar and the Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum.

  • Scott’s clients in the Ephedra litigation were compensated well for the damages they suffered.  These cases involved  products such as Herbalife, Dexatrim, Stacker and Hydroxicut that were associated with heart attacks and strokes. He was heavily involved in developing justification documents and taking corporate depositions that ultimately led to large dollar settlements for his clients.  

Most recently, Scott began working on Paxil birth defect cases. Paxil is an antidepressant still used by millions of Americans daily.  In recent years, however, it has been associated with significant heart defects when ingested by women during the first trimester of a pregnancy.  Scott has been actively prosecuting these cases against GSK, maker of the drug. One of his cases was the first to be set for trial.  The case was resolved in favor of Scott’s client.

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Celexa
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Zoloft
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* Verdicts and settlement amount does not reflect client portion

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