It is estimated that nearly 20% of pregnant women suffer some degree of depression and 3.7% use anti-depressants within the first three months of pregnancy. Serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are the first line of defense in battling depression during pregnancy. Unfortunately, the use of SSRIs, like Lexapro, during pregnancy has raised concerns regarding birth defects. A seemingly low-risk decision – using an antidepressant with a relatively tame safety profile – has led to tragic, life-altering consequences for a small number of children. And tragic is understating the case. Our lawyers are reviewing these Lexapro and other SSI cases for potential lawsuits. . If you believe your child may have a birth defect because of the child’s mother’s use of Lexapro, call 800-553-8082 or get a free online consultation.
The idea behind Lexapro and other SSRIs is interesting. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter which has been linked to several forms of depression. SSRIs work by balancing serotonin in the brain, in turn regulating mood and behavior. While not as well as the drug companies claim, the drugs seem to work and improve depression symptoms, in at least some patients. Lexapro (escitalopram oxalate) is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) manufactured by Forest Laboratories. Since the anti-depressants approval by the FDA in 2002, a staggering 18 million Americans have been prescribed Lexapro, both adults and adolescents, to treat depression and anxiety. When you consider Lexapro does not have a ton of market share, that 18 million figure is really extraordinary.
Risks Associated with Lexapro Use During Pregnancy
SSRIs have been shown to pass through the placenta to the fetus, posing risk to the fetus. This should have been the first clue for these drug companies. Lexapro has been classified by the FDA as a pregnancy category C medication. This assignment means that the drug may cause harm to the fetus if taken during pregnancy. The FDA recommends that Lexapro only be used during pregnancy if the benefits outweigh the risks to the fetus. Reported side effects of Lexapro which may affect the carrying mother including: Serotonin Syndrome or Neuroleptic Malignant Syndrome-like reactions which can be life-threatening and includes agitation, hallucinations, coma, or other changes in mental status; severe allergic reactions; increased risk of bleeding; seizures or convulsions; and manic episodes. These serious side effects can result in trauma to the unborn child. It is important to note that the medication should not be discontinued without the supervision of a physician.
Lexapro and Birth Defects
Birth defects associated with the use of Lexapro during pregnancy are similar to many other SSRIs and include: Persistent Pulmonary Hypertension of the Newborn (PPHN), heart defects, abdominal wall defects (omphlocele), cranial defects (caniosynostosis), anal atresia, limb defects, and neural tube birth defects.
A population-based study conducted in Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden, between 1996-2007, reviewed over 1.6 million infants. In this study, published in the British Medical Journal in 2011, it was found that approximately 30,000 women used SSRIs during pregnancy, and in over 35% of cases, SSRIs had been prescribed after the first trimester. The use of SSRIs in late pregnancy was found to be linked to an increased risk of PPHN at a rate twice that seen in pregnancies in which no SSRIs had been used. The risk was similar between several types of SSRIs. SSRI use during pregnancy has also been associated with a 2.4% risk of anencephaly, 2.5% risk of craniosynostosis, and 2.8% risk of omphalocele.
In 2010, an article published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal really got everyone’s attention, reporting a two-fold increase in miscarriage seen in women filling at least one prescription for antidepressants during their pregnancy, with SSRIs increasing the risk for miscarriage by 1.6%. Another study published in the American Journal of Nursing (2010) demonstrated a two-fold increase in the risk of severe congenital heart defects in infants associated with SSRI use during pregnancy and increased risk in infants exposed to more than one SSRI in utero. Abnormal heart rhythms, unusual sleeping patterns, problems with alertness, severe respiratory complications, and disrupted neurological development has also been reported in infants exposed to SSRI antidepressants during pregnancy.
If you have questions about a potential Lexapro lawsuit, call our attorneys at 800-553-8082. Or, to learn more, get a free no-obligation online case consultation here.