Lexapro belongs to a class of prescription antidepressant drugs known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs. These medications work by increasing the level of serotonin in the brain, a neurotransmitter responsible for controlling mood. By doing so, SSRIs like Lexapro can relieve depression and improve certain mood disorders. The active ingredient in Lexapro is escitalopram, and the drug was approved by the FDA in 2002. Since its inception, Lexapro has been prescribed to individuals suffering from major depressive disorder and generalized anxiety disorder. Lexapro is currently manufactured by Forest Laboratories and can be found in 5mg, 10mg and 20mg tablets, as well as a liquid solution which contains 5mg of active ingredient per 5mL of solution.
Although Lexapro has become one of the most widely prescribed antidepressant drugs on the market, recent research has suggested that the drug may have dangerous consequences when taken by pregnant women. According to a number of studies, women who take Lexapro during pregnancy may significantly increase their chances of giving birth to infants with birth defects like:
These alleged Lexapro birth defects have the potential to cause serious and even life-threatening complications for an affected child, as well as severe emotional and financial difficulties for the child’s family. While some of these birth defects can be successfully treated and reversed, typically with surgery, the more serious malformations may lead to death.
In 2006, the New England Journal of Medicine published a study in which researchers found a shocking six-times increased risk of PPHN among infants exposed to SSRIs like Lexapro in utero, compared to unexposed infants. According to the study, up to twelve out of 1,000 infants whose mothers took Lexapro after the twentieth week of pregnancy were born with PPHN, compared to the expected rate among the general population, which is one to two out of 1,000 infants. PPHN, or persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn, is a life-threatening birth defect in which an infant’s circulation continues to bypass the lungs after birth, depriving the rest of the body of oxygen. Shortly after this study was released, the FDA issued a public health advisory alerting patients and healthcare providers about the increased risk of PPHN among infants exposed to SSRIs like Lexapro during pregnancy. The FDA has also since required all SSRI sponsors to change drug prescribing information to include the potential risk for PPHN.
The NEJM published two additional studies in 2007 in which researchers sought to examine the adverse effects of fetal exposure to SSRI antidepressants like Lexapro. The first study indicated that infants whose mothers took an SSRI during the first trimester of pregnancy were nearly twice as likely to be born with birth defects like club foot, anal atresia and limb defects. According to researchers, there was also a possible connection between these drugs and neural tube birth defects, cleft palate and cleft lip. The second study determined that infants born to women who took an SSRI like Lexapro during pregnancy were more than twice as likely to develop devastating birth defects like craniosynostosis, omphalocele and anencephaly. In 2010, the American Journal of Nursing published a study which suggested that infants exposed to SSRIs like Lexapro in utero were nearly twice as likely to be born with severe heart defects, namely atrial and ventricular septal defects. According to this study, the prevalence of septal heart defects among infants whose mothers took an SSRI while pregnant was 0.9%, compared to the prevalence among unexposed infants, which was 0.5%.
Lexapro has been labeled by the FDA as a pregnancy category C medication, which means the drug may cause serious harm to a human fetus when taken during pregnancy. If you are currently pregnant or planning to become pregnant and you are taking Lexapro, consult your healthcare provider immediately. You should never suddenly stop taking a prescription medication, as this may cause further harm to you or your child. However, with the help of your physician, you may be able to find a safer alternative to Lexapro for treating your condition.
All children have the inherent right to lead a happy, healthy life. Unfortunately, being born with a birth defect can significantly decrease a child’s quality of life, and may even lead to death in severe cases. For those birth defects that are treatable, proper medical care can lead to costly medical expenses, resulting in an overwhelming financial burden for the child’s family. If you or a loved one has suffered from a birth defect and you believe Lexapro to be the cause, contact a qualified Lexapro attorney to discuss the benefits of filing a Lexapro lawsuit against Forest Laboratories. The goal of Lexapro lawsuits and potential Lexapro class action lawsuits is to seek financial compensation for your injuries and medical expenses, as well as the pain and suffering endured by you and your family.
Consumers expect drug manufacturing companies to produce and market safe medications. In fact, there are specific guidelines set in place by the FDA which were specifically established to protect consumers from harm inflicted by dangerous drugs. Unfortunately, some pharmaceutical companies employ deceptive practices to side-step these regulations, allowing potentially dangerous drugs to be approved and available on the U.S. market. In some cases, drug companies may conceal the more serious side effects of their medications in order to expedite the FDA approval process and ensure their product is well-received by the public. This misleading practice puts millions of consumers at risk of suffering serious consequences, just by taking their prescription medications. The only way to protect your rights and receive the compensation you deserve is to hire an experienced Lexapro lawyer to represent your case.