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Birth Defects Associated with Popular Antidepressants

Categories:Defective Drugs and Products

Depression and anxiety plague many. While these afflictions can be debilitating, many find comfort—and sometimes simply the ability to function—in antidepressant medication. Paxil and Prozac are two antidepressant medications in a commonly-prescribed class known as SSRIs, or Selective Seratonin Reuptake Inhibitors.

It is not known conclusively how depression begins; however, some experts believe that depression occurs as a result of new brain cell suppression. SSRIs work to combat depression by blocking a receptor in brain cells that reabsorb the chemical serotonin, which allows more available serotonin to send messages between nerve cells.  According to www.webmd.com, brain circuits that function on serotonin messaging are known to influence mood. By boosting serotonin levels, antidepressants help begin producing new brain cells, curbing depression.

Pregnancy complicates treatment for depression. It is well-settled medical advice that any woman who wishes to become pregnant (or is pregnant) should consult her physician before taking any medication. It is also understood that women routinely rely on the advice of trained physicians regarding the safety of medications as approved by the Food and Drug Administration while pregnant.

Unfortunately, women battling depression or anxiety who wish to become pregnant (or are pregnant) and have obtained relief through SSRIs must weigh the risks and benefits associated with SSRIs especially carefully now that the CDC released a new study regarding the safety of SSRIs when taken by pregnant women. While the study concluded that risks differ depending on the type of SSRI taken, the results of Paxil and Prozac should give pregnant women pause.

According to The Washington Post, the CDC study included 17,952 mothers of children born with birth defects and 9,857 mothers of children without birth defects born between 1997-2009. Of those women, 1,285 reported taking SSRIs—Zoloft (sertraline), Prozac (fluoxetine), Paxil (paroxetine), Celexa (citalopram), and Lexapro (escitalopram)—from one month prior to conception through the first trimester of pregnancy, the period experts believe is most vulnerable for a baby.

The results of the study were interesting: previous studies had found five kinds of birth defects and associations with sertraline (Zofran); however, the CDC was unable to find any such connections in this study. Since Zofran is the most commonly prescribed SSRI, one researcher called this finding reassuring.

Two of the other medications, did not receive the green light: Children born to mothers who had taken paroxetine (Paxil) had a higher incidence of anencephaly, in which a baby is born without parts of the brain and skull, as well as defects of the heart and abdominal wall. For mothers who took Paxil, the risk of anencephaly increases from 2 per 10,000 to 7 per 10,000.

Fluoxetine (Prozac) was also associated with higher incidence of birth defects: specifically, heart defects and craniosynostosis, a condition that affects one or more of the joints in a baby’s skull.

Women who do take SSRIs and subsequently give birth to children who suffer birth defects may have a claim against the manufacturer of these drugs. Drug makers themselves have a duty to test their medication for any risks and side effects and, if their testing reveals that their drug does present increased risk, warn the public accordingly. Failing to do so exposes the drug companies to potential liability.

In 2009, a Philadelphia jury awarded 3-year-old Lyam Kilker’s family $2.5 million for birth defects—two holes in his heart and an underdeveloped aorta—caused by Paxil. The jury concluded the drug’s manufacturer, GlaxoSmithKline, negligently failed to warn the family’s physician of the risk of birth defects while taking the drug. Numerous other lawsuits as a result of using Paxil and Prozac while pregnant have led to many settlements and jury verdicts. In fact, according to www.drugwatch.com, by 2010, GlaxoSmithKline had paid over $1 billion to settle various lawsuits for women who used Paxil during pregnancy and gave birth to a child who suffered birth defects.

If you took SSRIs while pregnant and your baby suffered birth defects, you may have a legal claim. Call the skilled attorneys at Brooks Law Group today to help determine whether you may be entitled to any compensation.

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