Neural Tube Birth Defects - Consumer Justice Foundation

Neural Tube Birth Defects

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Celexa and Neural Tube Birth Defects

Celexa is one of a group of prescription antidepressant medications called SSRIs, or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors. These drugs function by increasing the level of serotonin in the brain, a neurotransmitter responsible for affecting mood. SSRI antidepressants were initially designed to treat the symptoms associated with depression, but since the first of this kind of medication was introduced, these drugs have been prescribed to treat a number of additional disorders as well. Celexa, for example, was approved by the FDA in 1998 for the treatment of major depressive disorder, and has since been used for a number of off-label purposes including anxiety, panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and certain eating disorders.

Celexa (citalopram) is currently manufactured by pharmaceutical company, Forest Laboratories, and since its inception, has become one of the most widely-prescribed antidepressants on the U.S. market. However, despite the drug’s popularity, the safety of Celexa and others like it may be re-evaluated with the release of recent studies. According to research, SSRI antidepressants like Celexa, when taken during pregnancy, may significantly increase a woman’s chances of giving birth to a child with one or more life-altering birth defects, including neural tube birth defects.

Neural Tube Birth Defects

Neural tube birth defects are characterized by a malformation of the neural tube, a narrow tube present during fetal development which becomes the foundation for the child’s central nervous system. Defects of this kind occur when the cells of the neural tube fail to fuse together in utero, resulting in an opening in the end of this important fetal structure. Neural tube defects are characterized by an opening in the vertebrae or skull, which are responsible for protecting the spinal cord and brain, critical components of the central nervous system. Neural tube defects affect approximately one in 1,000 births, one of the most common being spina bifida.

Spina Bifida

Spina bifida is a malformation which prevents the vertebrae overlying the spinal cord from forming properly, leaving an opening in the spinal column through which the spinal cord may protrude, in severe instances. The severity of spina bifida can vary greatly, from spina bifida occulta, or hidden spina bifida, to spina bifida cystica, which is the most dangerous form of the defect. Infants with spina bifida occulta are often asymptomatic and the condition may only be observed by the presence of a small birthmark or patch of hair at the site of the malformation. On the other hand, children with spina bifida occulta are born with a hernial cyst protruding from their back, which may actually contain the spinal cord, membranes, or both. Infants born with spina bifida typically struggle with a number of difficulties including incontinence, learning difficulties, coordination and concentration problems, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. More serious instances of spina bifida may cause physical paralysis, hydrocephalus (a build-up of fluid in the brain), and even death.

Neural Tube Defect Symptoms

Although the symptoms associated with neural tube birth defects typically vary on a case-by-case basis, children with this type of malformation may struggle with the following issues:

  • Chronic allergies
  • Misshapen bones
  • Loss of sensation in parts of the body
  • Muscle weakness
  • Difficulty solving problems
  • Intellectual disability
  • Paralysis
  • Lack of coordination
  • Lack of concentration
  • Loss of bowel and bladder control

Celexa and Birth Defect Studies

The FDA issued a public health advisory in 2006 warning patients and healthcare professionals alike about the potential connection between the use of SSRIs like Celexa and the development of PPHN among infants. PPHN, or persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn, is a life-threatening heart and lung condition in which a child’s circulation continues to bypass the lungs after birth. This FDA decision was directly influenced by a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine that same year, in which researchers found a six-times increased risk of PPHN among infants exposed to SSRIs like Celexa in utero, compared to unexposed infants. The FDA has also since required all SSRI sponsors to update their drug warning labels to include potential pregnancy precautions, namely PPHN.

Two other revealing studies have been published in recent years which have suggested a possible link between SSRIs and birth defects. According to a study published in the journal Pediatrics, infants born to women who took an SSRI like Celexa during pregnancy had an increased risk of suffering from problems with alertness, unusual sleeping patterns, disrupted neurological development, and abnormal heart rhythms. Another study, published in the American Journal of Nursing, found that infants whose mothers took SSRI antidepressants like Celexa while pregnant were nearly twice as likely to be born with serious heart defects like atrial septal defects or ventricular septal defects.

Celexa Use While Pregnant

The FDA has classified Celexa as a pregnancy category C medication, which means the drug has the potential to cause significant, unreasonable harm to a human fetus when taken during pregnancy. If you are currently taking Celexa and you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant, consult your physician as soon as possible. Because many birth defects are established during the first trimester of pregnancy, and because nearly half of all pregnancies are unplanned, all women of childbearing age taking SSRIs like Celexa may be at risk of causing irreversible harm to their unborn child before they are even aware they are pregnant. You should never stop taking a prescription medication without medical consent, but with your doctor’s help, you may be able to find a safer way to treat your condition.

A Celexa Attorney Can Help

According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, more than 80,000 pregnant women are prescribed SSRI antidepressants like Celexa in any given year. Victims of serious injuries resulting from the use of a dangerous drug are not at fault and may be entitled to reimbursement for their injuries. Pharmaceutical companies like Forest Laboratories are expected to manufacture and market safe and effective medications, and are also expected to provide accurate information to consumers regarding the adverse side effects associated with their drugs. Unfortunately, some drug manufacturing companies intentionally fail to do so, in an attempt to avoid negative consequences like a drug recall. If you or a loved one has suffered from a neural tube birth defect or other birth defect and you believe Celexa to be the cause, contact a Celexa attorney immediately. You may have grounds to file a Celexa lawsuit against Forest Laboratories in order to seek financial compensation for your injuries, medical expenses, and pain and suffering.

Before a new drug is made available to the public, it must undergo extensive clinical trials and be approved by the FDA. The FDA measures the value of a medication by determining whether the possible benefits of the particular treatment outweigh the potential risks involved. When drug manufacturing companies fail to provide accurate information about their medications is when dangerous drugs are permitted to enter the market. Although most consumers are aware that no drug is 100% safe, they do have the right to assume that their prescription medications won’t cause them any unreasonable harm. Furthermore, if a drug is believed to be dangerous, consumers expect to be aware of this knowledge as soon as it is available. Unfortunately, when drug companies withhold dangerous drug information, consumers are vulnerable to serious and even life-threatening injuries and illnesses. By hiring a qualified Celexa lawyer, victims of alleged Celexa birth defects can protect their rights and stand up to the misleading practices of allegedly deceptive drug companies.

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