A new Swedish study has verified that antidepressants known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) increase the risk for birth defects when taken by the mother during early pregnancy. SSRIs, and a Combination Drug Containing an SSRI, include:
Celexa (citalopram), Fluvoxamine, Lexapro (escitalopram), Paxil (paroxetine), Prozac (fluoxetine), Symbyax (olanzapine/fluoxetine) Zoloft (sertraline)
A possible link between SSRIs and birth defects first came to light in late 2005, when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued a warning that data suggested a possible link between the antidepressant Paxil and birth defects, in particular heart defects. Paxil was downgraded from a Category C drug to a Category D. In the event you don’t know, and for your information, the drugs are classified as follows:
• Category A and B drugs are generally considered to be safe to use during pregnancy.
• Category C drugs should only be taken if the potential benefit outweighs the potential risk to the developing fetus.
• Category D drugs are those that pose a significant risk to a growing fetus and should only be taken when there is risk to the mother if she does not take the drug.
Besides Paxil, no other SSRI antidepressants are currently classified as Category D. The antidepressants, Zoloft, Lexapro, Celexa, Prozac and others, are still listed as a Category C. In 2007, Zoloft was the most prescribed antidepressant on the U.S. retail market with more than 29 million prescriptions. It is primarily used to treat major depression in adults as well as obsessive-compulsive, panic, and social anxiety disorders in adults and children.
The use of Zoloft by mothers during the first trimester of pregnancy has been said in the past to increase the risk of certain birth defects. For example, a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found Zoloft likely contributed to birth defects such as omphalocele. limb reduction defects, and septal defects. But the new study puts the classification of all SSRIs into question.
Researchers found an association between antidepressant treatment and pre-existing diabetes and chronic hypertension, but also with many pregnancy complications. This was said by the group to be alarming. Rates of induced delivery and caesarean section were increased. The rate of preterm birth was also increased. Neonatal complications were common, and an increased risk for pulmonary hypertension of the newborn was verified. The study’s authors concluded:
Women using antidepressants during pregnancy and their newborns have increased pathology. It is not clear how much of this is due to drug use or underlying pathology.
I am convinced that in today’s world antidepressants are being used much too often. This study should get the public’s attention, as well as that of the medical community, and if that happens it will be good. For more information on this subject, you can contact Roger Smith, a lawyer in our firm’s Mass Torts Section, at 800-898-2034 or by email at Roger.Smith@beasleyallen.com.
Source: New England Journal of Medicine
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