SSRI Infant Birth Defects & Lawsuits & Settlements

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SSRIs, already linked to infant birth defects, now identified by researchers as putting patients at risk of abnormal heart beat

The class of anti-depressant drugs known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs, has long been linked to causing birth defects in infants born to women who use them during pregnancies.

There have been so many SSRI birth defect lawsuits filed against such best-selling medications as Prozac, Zoloft, Paxil, Lexapro and Depakote that federal court officials have decided to coordinate them before a single judge.

In what is called a multidistrict litigation, the judge is overseeing pre-trial evidence-gathering and other procedures that serve as a precursor to what could eventually become a huge class-action case.

The number of such lawsuits is expected to increase as SSRI birth defects lawyers continue to offer free consultations to families who have had infants suffering from birth defects linked to SSRIs.

What are the allegations contained in these SSRI birth defect lawsuits? Among the health problems that women claim were caused in their infants because of the use of SSRIs during pregnancy are:

  • A life-threatening lung condition known as Persistent Pulmonary Hypertension of the Newborn
  • Club Foot
  • Cleft Palate
  • Cleft Lip
  • Ventricular septal malformation
  • Omphalocele
  • Tetralogy of Fallot
  • Limb deformities
  • Genital defects
  • Heart defects
  • Abnormal intestinal defects
  • Hydrocephalus
  • Atrial septal defect
  • Ventral septal defect

Now, the findings of a new study published in the British Medical Journal show that patients taking SSRIs may be at higher risk of developing an abnormal heart beat than patients who take other medications.

The medical web site HealthDay reported that researchers found that the widely prescribed medications may extend the length of electrical activity in the heart, called a QT interval. A long QT interval is an indicator of abnormal heart rhythms.

"For people who are taking higher doses of citalopram (Celexa) or escitalopram (Lexapro), they should discuss these doses with their doctors,"  the report quoted lead researcher Dr. Roy Perlis, director of the Center for Experimental Drugs and Diagnostics in the psychiatry department at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.

"They should absolutely not just stop their medicine," he added.
The report quoted Perlis as saying that QT interval is just one indicator of cardiac risk, so there are many other factors to consider in choosing a depression treatment. "It's important to know that there are other medicines which appear to be safe in terms of effects on heart rhythm," he added.
The report also noted that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration warned recently that SSRIs, among the most prescribed medications on pharmacy shelves, could cause this problem.

Another warning flag rasied over the link between moms using SSRI drugs and health problems in infants.

Medical researchers are continuing to raise concerns about the safety of a class of anti-depressants in regards to their use before and during pregnancies. These medications, known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs, already have been identified in several studies as putting women at higher risk of giving birth to infants suffering from birth defects.

This devastating situation has occurred so often that there are now hundreds of SSRI birth defect lawsuits being consolidated in the federal court system and the Food and Drug Administration has been forced to issue a health alert about this increased risk of birth defects.

Now comes news of a new study that shows that SSRIs also are linked to the ability of an infant to grasp language and that this effect may not be a positive factor in the child’s development.

SSRI Lawsuits are Frequent

There are currently so many SSRI birth defect lawsuits that have been filed by families whose infants have been born with these defects that the cases are being consolidated in a massive legal action in the federal court system.

SSRIs are the newest types of anti-depressant drugs and marketed under various brand and generic drug names such as Prozac, Zoloft, Paxil, Lexapro and Depakote. These medications are among the best-known in the world and generate billions of dollars in sales for several large pharmaceutical corporations. Statistics show that the majority of patients using these drugs to treat depression are women.

Even though the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has issued health advisories about these dangers and has received numerous adverse event reports about SSRI-linked birth defects the agency has acknowledged that there are no adequate and well-controlled studies about SSRIs and pregnant women.

The plaintiffs in these SSRI birth defect lawsuits are claiming that the drug manufacturers were negligent in their responsibilities to adequately warn patients and government regulators of these dangerous side effects because the company “knew or should have known” about the possibility of infants of these mothers developing birth defects.

Among the birth defects identified in these SSRI lawsuits are:

  • Persistent Pulmonary Hypertension of the Newborn
  • Heart defects
  • Ventricular septal malformation
  • Atrial septal defect
  • Tetralogy of Fallot
  • Cleft lip
  • Cleft palate
  • Club foot
  • Omphalocele
  • Limb deformities
  • Genital defects
  • Abnormal intestinal defects
  • Hydrocephalus

In the new research linking SSRIs to increased risk of stroke, the findings of the research, which were published in the journal Neurology, the scientists found that the increased risk of stroke occurs most often during the first few weeks of treatment.

According to data published in the article, the findings were based a study with more than 500,000 participants and showed that SSRI patients were about 50 percent more likely to have a hemorrhagic stroke than those not taking the medications. Patients who were taking both SSRIs and blood-thinning medication were at even higher risk,

"Physicians should be aware of this association -- particularly in those with a history of brain hemorrhage or people taking anticoagulants like warfarin," the study's lead author, Dr. Daniel Hackam, associate professor of medicine at the London Health Sciences Center of University Hospital in London, Ontario, said in an interview posted on the HealthDay web site.

The study was recently analyzed in a posting on U.S. News and World Report’s HealthDay web site. Here is part of it:

The study found that treating depressed pregnant women with serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRIs) may speed up the baby's ability to focus on the sights and sounds of his or her native language.

"This study shows how maternal depression and its treatment can change the timing of language development in babies," said Janet Werker, professor of psychology at the University of British Columbia, in Vancouver, Canada, and senior author of the study.

Werker stressed that the study does not show that the "sped-up" development associated with pregnant mothers who took these antidepressants was necessarily beneficial to the infant's language learning process.
"In our culture we tend to think speeding things up is a good thing, but it's not necessarily so with infant language development," Werker said.

The study also found that depression during pregnancy not treated with medication may prolong an early stage of language development. The study appears Oct. 8 in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Serotonin is a hormone that regulates mood, appetite and sleep, and is thought to contribute to feelings of well-being and happiness. SSRIs raise the amount of serotonin available outside of cells, which increases the ability of nerve cells to transmit serotonin. SSRIs also are used to treat anxiety and eating disorders.
SSRIs include commonly prescribed antidepressants such as Prozac (Fluoxetine), Lexapro (escitalopram), Paxil (paroxetine) and Zoloft (sertraline).

The new research is the latest in a growing body of evidence showing that both depression in pregnancy and drugs taken to fight the disorder can affect fetal development, which can create a treatment dilemma for women and their doctors.

For example, another study, published in March in the journal Archives of General Psychiatry, showed that pregnant women taking SSRIs may be more likely to deliver infants with smaller heads.
Smaller heads are one of the birth defect allegations contained in the SSRI birth defect lawsuits in which plaintiffs are claiming that drug manufacturers were negligent in their responsibilities to adequately warn patients and government regulators of these dangerous side effects because the companies “knew or should have known” about the possibility of infants of these mothers developing birth defects.

List of common SSRI Drugs:

  • Prozac
  • Celexa
  • Luvox
  • Zoloft
  • Paxil
  • Lexapro
  • Viibryd

Contact an SSRI lawyer for information on the class action lawsuit that may start.

If you or someone you care about was prescribed ANY SSRI drug and have had a child with a birth defect, our lawyers would like to talk with you. You may be entitled to financial compensation for your child's pain and suffering, but if you hesitate the statute of limitations in your state could prevent your case from getting off the ground. Contact our SSRI lawyers today!


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SSRI birth defects class action lawsuit settlements for SSRI drug users page updated on 3/06/2013