Canada’s first class-action lawsuit involving birth defects allegedly caused by anti-depressents gets green light

Maclean’s exclusive: Anne Kingston on today’s ruling from the B.C. Supreme Court

A Supreme Court of British Columbia decision has paved way for Canada’s first national class action lawsuit against the manufacturer of an antidepressant drug alleged to have caused birth defects in children born to women who took it during pregnancy.

In the ruling dated Dec. 3, 2012, Faith Gibson of Surrey, B.C. was appointed “representative plaintiff” on behalf of a class defined as “any person in Canada, born with cardiovascular defects, to women who ingested Paxil while pregnant, and the mothers of those persons.”

In December 2002, Gibson was prescribed Paxil, a selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitor (SSRI) manufactured by GlaxoSmithKline Inc. that was approved for use in Canada in 1993. She took it throughout her pregnancy; on Sept. 13, 2004, her daughter, Meah Bartram was born with a ventricular septal defect, more commonly known as a “hole in the heart.”

Lawyer David Rosenberg, of Vancouver’s Rosenberg & Rosenberg will argue that GlaxoSmithKline knew or ought to have known of the risks and failed to provide adequate and timely warning to doctors and the public. (In 2005, Health Canada sent out a warning in agreement with GlaxoSmithKline that advised infants exposed to Paxil in the first trimester had a higher risk of congenital malformations, specifically cardiovascular defects.)

Next up, says Rosenberg, is a “common issues trial” in which a judge decides for the entire class certain common issues, such as “Did Paxil increase likelihood of birth defects?” and “Did GlaxoSmithKline fail to adequately warn Health Canada of the risks.”

GlaxoSmithKline Inc. has 30 days to appeal the decision.

Read the decision here:

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