According to ScienceDaily, a new study published in the BMJ this week determined that use of certain antidepressants during early pregnancy may increase risk of birth defects. The study collected data on mothers who used various selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) during the first trimester of pregnancy. In particular, Prozac was linked to an increase in the rate of birth defects.
Doctors often prescribe SSRI antidepressants to help treat depression, anxiety, bulimia, and obsessive-compulsive behavior. Popular SSRIs include Pfizer’s Zoloft and Eli Lilly’s Prozac. These antidepressants are prescribed to tens of millions of patients each year, and generate billions of dollars in annual revenue. Despite their popularity, however, SSRIs have been linked by multiple studies to serious heart and lung birth defects in children. One study found that women who took an SSRI during the first three months of pregnancy were twice as likely to give birth to children with heart defects. In another study, researchers found that children whose mothers took an SSRI during the first three months of pregnancy had a 50 percent–increased risk of developing a heart defect.
The recent BMJ study sought to confirm the results of past studies and gain a better understanding of the birth defect risks of various SSRIs. According to ScienceDaily, the study did not confirm associations between maternal SSRI use and birth defects for Zoloft, Celexa, or Lexapro. However, the study did produce results consistent with previous studies’ claims that Prozac may increase the rate of birth defects. In children of mothers who used Prozac while pregnant, researchers observed increased incidence of heart wall defects and irregular skull shape.
The study’s researchers concluded that the results warrant continued scrutiny of the link between early-pregnancy SSRI use and risk of birth defects. Further data would enable women and their practitioners to make more informed decisions about drug use during pregnancy.
Although the new study was unable to confirm an associations between Zoloft and increased birth defect rates, it also did not rule out a link. In fact, a vast amount of literature still remains concerning this possible link. This literature has been used in many Zoloft birth defect lawsuits by plaintiffs who claim Pfizer released their drug without adequate testing and despite evidence of the birth defect risks it posed. In 2012, a judicial panel ruled that Zoloft birth defect lawsuits filed against Pfizer would be consolidated in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. The Zoloft multidistrict litigation currently includes over 1,000 Zoloft birth defect lawsuits.
Last month, a newly publicized document revealed that one of Pfizer’s own scientists warned the company that Zoloft may increase the likelihood of birth defects in women using the drug during early pregnancy.
Talk to your doctor about any health risks your medications may pose. If you or a loved had a child with birth defects after using Zoloft or another SSRI during pregnancy, contact the birth defect lawyers at Lopez McHugh today for a free consultation.