PPHN - Consumer Justice Foundation

Celexa and PPHN

Celexa, manufactured by Forest Laboratories, is one of the many prescription antidepressant medications on the market known as SSRIs, or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors. These drugs function by affecting the level of serotonin in the brain, a neurotransmitter responsible for influencing mood. By restoring balance to this naturally-occurring chemical, SSRIs can relieve depression and improve certain mood disorders. The active ingredient in Celexa is citalopram, and the drug was approved by the FDA in 1998 for the treatment of major depressive disorder. In some cases, Celexa may be approved by physicians for off-label purposes as well, including the treatment of panic disorder, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and certain eating disorders. Unfortunately, recent research has identified a potential connection between the use of Celexa and serious adverse side effects. According to a number of studies, women who take SSRI antidepressants like Celexa during pregnancy may significantly increase their risk of giving birth to infants with one or more major birth defects, including PPHN.

PPHN Described

PPHN, or persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn, is a dangerous condition in which a child’s circulation continues to bypass the lungs after birth. In the womb, a baby’s oxygen is supplied by the placenta through the umbilical cord, so the lungs aren’t yet necessary. Under normal circumstances, once the child is born, the circulatory system adapts to breathing air and blood can be pumped into the lungs where oxygen and carbon dioxide are exchanged. However, in children with PPHN, the child’s circulation continues to bypass the lungs after birth. Although the child can breathe, the oxygen in the breathed air will not reach the bloodstream and, therefore, will not be distributed to the body’s tissues and organs. Without an adequate supply of oxygen, the child’s organs will become stressed and may eventually shut down.

PPHN Symptoms and Treatment

Common symptoms of persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn include:

  • Rapid heart rate
  • Rapid breathing
  • Cyanosis (bluish tint to the skin)
  • Respiratory distress
  • Heart murmur

PPHN is an extremely dangerous condition requiring intensive monitoring and medical treatment. Some cases of PPHN are treatable and reversible, while other children with this condition may have lungs that are too diseased or malformed to heal properly. Common treatment methods for PPHN include:

  • Oxygen administration
  • Administration of nitric oxide
  • Assisted ventilation
  • High frequency oscillatory ventilation
  • Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO)

PPHN Prognosis

Unfortunately, even with prompt diagnosis and treatment, many children with this condition continue to deliver an inadequate amount of oxygen to the body’s tissues. This may lead to life-threatening complications, including brain hemorrhage, heart failure, shock, seizures, multiple organ damage, kidney failure, and even death. Despite the severe nature of PPHN, advancements in medicine have significantly improved the chances of survival for children with this condition. Previously, nearly half of all infants diagnosed with PPHN died, whereas less than 20% of cases of PPHN result in fatality today.

Celexa Birth Defect Warnings by the FDA

The New England Journal of Medicine published a study in 2006 in which researchers identified a six-times increased risk of PPHN among infants exposed to SSRI antidepressants like Celexa in utero, compared to unexposed infants. According to the report, up to twelve out of 1,000 infants whose mothers took an SSRI like Celexa while pregnant were born with PPHN, compared to the prevalence expected among the general population, which is one to two infants out of 1,000. Shortly after this study was released, the FDA issued a public health advisory warning patients and healthcare providers about the potential connection between the use of SSRIs like Celexa during pregnancy and the development of PPHN. Other credible resources, including the American Journal of Nursing and the journal Pediatrics have published additional birth defect studies in which researchers found potential connections between the use of SSRIs like Celexa and serious problems among exposed infants, including septal heart defects, decreased neurological development, problems with alertness, abnormal heart rhythms, and unusual sleeping patterns.

Celexa Use and Pregnancy

The FDA has labeled Celexa a pregnancy category C medication, which means the drug has the potential to cause serious harm to a fetus when taken during pregnancy. The FDA has also required all sponsors of SSRI medications like Celexa to update their drug warning labels to include potential pregnancy precautions, namely PPHN. If you are currently taking Celexa and you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant, consult your physician as soon as possible. You should never stop taking a prescription medication without medical consent, but with the help of your doctor, you may be able to find a safer alternative to Celexa for treating your medical condition.

A Celexa Attorney Can Help

PPHN is an extremely dangerous disorder which can lead to serious complications and even death for an affected child. If you or a loved one has suffered from PPHN and you believe Celexa to be the cause, contact a Celexa attorney to discuss your legal options. You may be entitled to reimbursement, which you can collect by filing a Celexa lawsuit against Forest Laboratories. The goal of Celexa lawsuits and potential Celexa class action lawsuits is to seek financial compensation for your injuries, the medical expenses associated with treating the injuries, and the pain and suffering incurred by you and your family.

Drug manufacturing companies are responsible for the safety of their medications and should be held accountable for any adverse side effects sustained by consumers of their products. Unfortunately, some pharmaceutical companies employ deceptive practices in order to expedite the FDA approval process and ensure their drug is well-received by the public. This puts consumers unknowingly at risk of suffering serious injury, illness, or even death, as a result of simply taking their prescription medications. The only way to protect your rights and collect the compensation you deserve is to hire a qualified Celexa lawyer to represent your case. 

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