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Paxil Linked To Heart Defects In Babies, Philly Jury Told

After being barred from presenting opinions in federal multidistrict litigation over the antidepressant Zoloft, a Philadelphia jury heard testimony on Thursday from an expert witness about what she said were clear links between GlaxoSmithKline PLC’s antidepressant drug Paxil and cardiac birth defects.

University of Montreal researcher Anick Berard, whose testimony was rejected from the Zoloft MDL after a federal judge ruled in June 2014 that she’d strayed from established epidemiological methods, told the jury that more than a dozen studies on Paxil showed a consistent association between the drug and cardiac birth defects.

“Paxil, when taken during the first trimester of pregnancy, is more likely than not to be a cause of heart defects in newborns,” she said during about two hours of direct examination before Judge Kenneth Powell.

Berard’s testimony comes in the first of nine cases over Paxil that are queued up for trial as part of a mass tort program in the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas.

GSK faces claims that 12-year-old Braden Rader was born with a rare condition known as tetralogy of fallot, a combination of four heart defects, after his mother took Paxil while she was pregnant in 2003.

The road to trial for the Paxil cases in Philadelphia has been somewhat tortured.

The nine Paxil cases were removed to federal court by GSK in October 2011 before being remanded after a federal judge determined that the company was a Pennsylvania resident and that there was no diversity jurisdiction.

After a landmark Third Circuit ruling in a separate case in June 2013 finding that GSK’s 10-foot-by-10-foot office in Wilmington qualified it as a Delaware resident, the company moved once again to pull the Paxil cases out of Philadelphia and have them heard in federal court.

While a federal judge rejected a motion to remand the cases back to Philadelphia a second time, the Third Circuit ruled last August that GSK’s second removal had been untimely.

In addition to losing the fight to have the Paxil cases removed to federal court, GSK also lost a bid in Philadelphia to have Berard’s testimony barred on grounds that her expert report was “remarkably similar” to the one she’d submitted in the Zoloft litigation.

Their motion was rejected last month.

Todd Davis, an attorney with King & Spalding representing GSK in the Rader case, however, worked during cross-examination on Thursday to suggest that Berard’s opinions had shifted depending on the particular case that she was working on.

He pointed to a string of studies cited in her expert report in the Paxil litigation that she had previously criticized during depositions in both the Zoloft MDL and litigation over the antidepressant Celexa.

“Scientists shouldn’t be cherry-picking data based on what litigation they’re in,” Davis said.

Berard countered that the studies Davis singled out had not been used in forming her causation opinion, but were instead cited in her report simply because it fell within the broad universe of material she’d reviewed on the topic.

She said she’s included them in her report after being accused in other litigation of not being exhaustive enough in singling out relevant research.

The case was presented for the Raders by James Morris Jr. of Morris Law Firm.

The case was presented for GSK by Todd Davis of King & Spalding.

The case is Braden Rader et al. v. SmithKlineBeecham Corp. et al., case number 110903672, in the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania.

Courtesy of www.law360.com

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