Wellbutrin belongs to a group of prescription medications known as antidepressants. Antidepressant drugs were initially designed as a treatment for depression, a condition which affects millions of Americans on a daily basis. Many antidepressants however, have been indicated for additional purposes and some are even prescribed for off-label uses when physicians deem the treatment appropriate. Wellbutrin in particular is commonly prescribed to individuals suffering from major depressive disorder or seasonal affective disorder, a type of depression that occurs mostly during the fall and winter. Wellbutrin differs from other antidepressants like SSRIs and SNRIs in that it acts mostly upon dopamine and norepinephrine, two neurotransmitters in the brain responsible for controlling mood. Wellbutrin garnered FDA approval in 1985 and is currently manufactured by pharmaceutical company, GlaxoSmithKline.
According to recent studies, women who take Wellbutrin during pregnancy may have a significantly increased risk of giving birth to babies with major birth defects. Among the birth defects potentially associated with Wellbutrin are:
While some of these alleged Wellbutrin birth defect are relatively minor and can be reversed with surgery, like cleft lip and cleft palate, others are severe and may even threaten an affected child’s life. PPHN (persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn) for example, occurs when a child’s circulation continues to bypass the lungs after birth, depriving the rest of the body of the oxygen it needs to survive. Neural tube defects like spina bifida are equally dangerous, occurring when the neural tube fails to close completely in utero and potentially affecting a child’s central nervous system. Many children born with neural tube defects like spina bifida struggle with complications involving movement, learning and development.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention funded a National Birth Defects Prevention Study, which is an ongoing study of genetic and environmental risk factors for more than thirty categories of birth defects. This study, published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology in 2010, identified fetal exposure to Wellbutrin as a potential risk factor for the development of heart birth defects in particular. In fact, researchers involved in this study indicated that, among the more than 12,700 U.S. infants born between 1997 and 2004, those whose mothers took Wellbutrin during early pregnancy had more than double the risk of developing serious heart defects like left outflow tract defects, compared to infants whose mothers received no antidepressant treatment while pregnant.
In 2006, the NEJM published a study in which researchers sought to examine the adverse effects of fetal exposure to certain antidepressant drugs. According to researchers, infants whose mothers took certain antidepressants after the twentieth week of pregnancy were six times more likely to develop PPHN than infants whose mothers didn’t take any antidepressants. After reviewing the results of this study, the FDA issued a public health advisory warning patients and healthcare professionals about the increased risk of PPHN among infants exposed to certain antidepressants in utero.
In 1997, Wellbutrin makers GlaxoSmithKline established the Bupropion Pregnancy Registry in order to analyze the outcomes of pregnancies involving women who took Wellbutrin during pregnancy. By 2008, GlaxoSmithKline found that 3.6% of the 675 infants exposed to Wellbutrin during early pregnancy were born with serious birth defects. Heart defects were present in 1.3% of the infants observed in this study.
Wellbutrin has been classified by the FDA as a pregnancy category C medication, which means it may cause serious harm to a fetus when taken during pregnancy. If you are currently taking Wellbutrin and you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant, consult your physician immediately. You should never suddenly stop taking a prescription drug without medical consent, as this may cause further harm to you or your child. However, with your doctor’s help, you may be able to find a safer way to treat your condition. According to the FDA, category C medications like Wellbutrin should not be prescribed to pregnant women unless the possible benefits of the treatment outweigh the potential risks to the fetus.
All children deserve to live a happy and healthy life. Unfortunately, birth defects, especially those that may be linked to Wellbutrin, have the potential to adversely affect a child’s well-being and possibly even threaten a child’s life. If you or a loved one has suffered from a birth defect which you believe to be associated with Wellbutrin, contact a Wellbutrin attorney to discuss your legal options. You may be entitled to financial compensation for your injuries and medical expenses, which you can collect by filing a Wellbutrin lawsuit against Wellbutrin makers, GlaxoSmithKline. Victims of dangerous drug-related injuries are not at fault and should not be held responsible for the resulting consequences. Pharmaceutical companies should be held accountable for the safety of their medications, especially when consumers of their products sustain serious, life-altering injuries. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case. By contacting a qualified Wellbutrin lawyer, victims of potential Wellbutrin birth defects can protect their rights and stand up to big drug companies like GlaxoSmithKline.