The SSRI Lawsuit: Antidepressants and Pregnancy
Autism and serious birth defects have been tied to use of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), commonly prescribed to treat depression and anxiety disorders. Alleging that the drug manufacturers failed to warn doctors and patients of the increased risk, the growing SSRI lawsuit seeks compensation for innocent victims. Our San Diego, CA, law firm is representing clients whose children have suffered adverse effects from SSRIs. If your baby was diagnosed with a birth defect or your child has autism, please contact our personal injury attorneys today to schedule a free consultation.
SSRIs work by blocking the brain’s reabsorption of serotonin, a natural mood enhancer. Since the late 1980s, these medications have been an increasingly popular treatment for mood disorders. SSRIs are also commonly prescribed for the off-label treatment of symptoms from a number of physical and psychological conditions, including obsessive-compulsive disorder, arthritis, and irritable bowel syndrome.
According to the U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC), use of antidepressants increased nearly 400 percent from 1998-2008. Women are much more likely to take these drugs, with estimates as high as one in four using antidepressants daily. About 13 percent of American women reportedly take antidepressants during pregnancy.
A Connection to Autism
A study published in a 2015 issue of JAMA Pediatrics reported that pregnant women who took antidepressants were more likely to have a baby who developed autism. SSRIs taken in the second or third trimester significantly increased this risk.
This follows a previous study reported by JAMA Psychiatry in 2011, which showed two-fold increased risk of autism spectrum disorder associated with the use of SSRIs during pregnancy. SSRIs have been connected to other birth defects, and further investigation into the potential autism connection is ongoing.
SSRIs and Birth Defects
Doctors and patients have reported many types of birth defects following SSRI use during pregnancy, including:
- Persistent Pulmonary Hypertension (PPHN) in newborns - A life-threatening condition, PPHN affects the infant’s lungs and can cause heart damage.
- Heart defects – Structural defects are the most common heart condition reported.
- Anencephaly – This fatal defect affects the baby’s brain and skull.
- Cleft lip and palate – These defects cause a split or gap in the upper lip or roof of the mouth, requiring surgery and other therapeutic interventions.
Like other potentially dangerous drugs, SSRIs cannot be safely tested on pregnant women. Most SSRIs are labeled as presenting potential harm to a fetus based on laboratory animal studies (Category C). Paxil carries a stronger, Category D warning pertaining to heart defects: "studies in pregnant women (controlled or observational) have demonstrated a risk to the fetus."
There have been many multi-million dollar settlements and jury awards, and hundreds of cases remain in litigation.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has previously issued warnings to doctors and patients about adverse SSRI reactions, including an increased risk of PPHN in newborns. The FDA also warned of suicidal ideation and Serotonin Syndrome, which can occur in patients taking migraine medication and SSRIs together.
Birth Defect Lawsuits
Multiple lawsuits have been filed by parents of children suffering birth defects after exposure to SSRIs in the womb. The lawsuits allege that the manufacturers of the drug failed to warn doctors and pregnant patients of the increased risk to the developing fetus. There have been many multi-million dollar settlements and jury awards, and hundreds of cases remain in litigation.