In Plumlee v. Pfizer Inc., Case No. 5:13-cv-00414, in the US District Court for the Northern District of California, plaintiff Laura Plumlee took Zoloft manufacturer Pfizer to task for marketing a drug that was alleged to be ineffective, with questionable efficacy, due to a claim that most clinical trials found that Zoloft was no more effective than a placebo, or so Plumlee claimed.
Her lawsuit alleges that Pfizer purposely omitted, in Zoloft labeling, any studies that showed Zoloft to be ineffective, while favoring studies that showed Zoloft was, indeed, more effective than a placebo. Plumlee also alleged that Pfizer’s marketing and advertising was also misleading in touting Zoloft, an antidepressant, as effective.
However, Plumlee’s claim was dismissed not on her argument of effectiveness, but due to time barring. It has been reported that Plumlee brought her defective drug lawsuit under two statutes observed by the state of California: that of the Unfair Competition Law, and the Consumer Legal Remedies Act and False Advertising Law.
Was plaintiff’s claim time-barred?
The two aforementioned statutes, under California law, carry limitations of four years and three years, respectively. In her ruling dismissing the plaintiff’s claim, US District Judge Lucy Koh ruled that Plumlee’s complaint went beyond the limitation boundaries, given the plaintiff’s claim that she last used Zoloft in 2008 but waited until January 2013 to bring her lawsuit.
Plumlee challenged that such limitations were tolled until 2012, the point at which Plumlee first discovered that Zoloft had been misrepresented. The judge, however, held that Plumlee’s claim to discovering Zoloft’s inadequacies in “early 2012” was too general a frame of time. Judge Koh also was not satisfied with the detail supporting the time and surrounding circumstances of her discovery.
To that end, the judge pointed to the existence of various scientific articles - cited by the plaintiff - that had been published long before Plumlee brought her drug defects lawsuit, and thus did not accept the plaintiff’s claim.
However, the judge left the door open.
All is not lost for this Zoloft defective medical products action
In dismissing the plaintiff’s claim, Judge Koh is allowing Plumlee to amend her complaint going forward. It is telling, as well, that the California judge ruled that Pfizer has the freedom to access certain aspects of the plaintiff’s medical history. Plumlee had sought to block Pfizer’s access to her medical records. A previous magistrate’s ruling that allowed Pfizer access was supported by Judge Koh on grounds that Plumlee had waived any privilege of protecting her medical history when she argued that the statutes of limitations were tolled due to her learning of Zoloft’s alleged deficiencies only in early 2012.
Plumlee, according to various reports, had sought to represent a proposed class of plaintiffs who may have used Zoloft from the point at which it was introduced to market in 1991, through to present day. However, the judge suggested that Plumlee may not be typical of the class, given that she claims to have used Zoloft for a period of three years even though it did not appear to be working for her. Records also demonstrated that the lead plaintiff relied more upon Zoloft marketing and advertising, than the advice of her doctor.
READ MORE ZOLOFT CLASS ACTION LEGAL NEWS
Harmful drugs are often shown to carry risks, in spite of the position of the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that holds that a drug’s benefits outweigh the risks for the class or constituency of patients to which the drug is targeted. In the same vein, however, drug defects can also include deficiencies that suggest a drug is not worth the financial outlay, either by an individual or group, in exchange for potentially limited effectiveness.
The aforementioned Zoloft lawsuit alleges Zoloft does not live up to its promises. The proposed class action, alleging defective medical products (Zoloft, as ineffective), could continue with amendments - but perhaps not in its present form.