Zoloft MDL Excludes Proffered Testimony of Anick Bérard, Ph.D.

Anick Bérard is a Canadian perinatal epidemiologist in the Université de Montréal.  Bérard was named by plaintiffs’ counsel in the Zoloft MDL to offer an opinion that selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressants as a class, and Zoloft (sertraline) specifically, cause a wide range of birth defects. Bérard previously testified against GSK about her claim that paroxetine, another SSRI antidepressant is a teratogen.

Pfizer challenged Bérard’s proffered testimony under Federal Rules of Evidence 104(a), 702, 703, and 403.  Today, the Zoloft MDL transferee court handed down its decision to exclude Dr. Bérard’s testimony at the time of trial.  In re Zoloft (Sertraline Hydrochloride) Prods. Liab. Litig., MDL 2342, Document 979 (June 27, 2014).  The MDL court acknowledged the need to consider the selectivity (“cherry picking”) of studies upon which Dr. Bérard relied, as well as her failure to consider multiple comparisons, ascertainment bias, confounding by indication, and lack of replication of specific findings across the different SSRI medications, and across studies. Interestingly, the MDL court recognized that Dr. Bérard’s critique of studies as “underpowered” was undone by her failure to consider available meta-analyses or to conduct one of her own. The MDL court seemed especially impressed by Dr. Bérard’s having published several papers that rejected a class effect of teratogenicity for all SSRIs, as recently as 2012, while failing to identify anything that was published subsequently that could explain her dramatic change in opinion for litigation.

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