SSRIs, or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, are prescription antidepressant medications originally developed as a first-line treatment for depression. One of the most popular SSRIs is a drug called Celexa, which is currently manufactured by pharmaceutical company, Forest Laboratories. Celexa and other SSRI drugs function by restoring the level of serotonin in the brain, thereby relieving depression and improving certain mood disorders. The active ingredient in Celexa is citalopram, and the drug was approved in 1998 for the treatment of major depressive disorder. Although this is its only approved use, Celexa is also often prescribed for off-label purposes like the treatment of anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic disorder, and certain eating disorders.
Regardless of the popularity of Celexa and other drugs of its kind, recent research has indicated a potential connection between the use of SSRIs like Celexa and major birth defects. According to a number of studies, women who take Celexa or other SSRI antidepressants during pregnancy may significantly increase their risk of giving birth to infants with major birth defects, including a defect of the skull called craniosynostosis.
Craniosynostosis is a serious congenital defect in which one or more of the sutures on a child’s head close earlier than normal, causing the child’s skull to grow abnormally. Cranial sutures are the joints connecting the different parts of a child’s skull and are critical in maintaining the skull’s ability to accommodate normal brain growth. When one of these sutures closes prematurely, it is no longer able to expand, although the the rest of the skull will continue to grow, resulting in a misshapen head. There are several different kinds of craniosynostosis, named for the types of sutures involved.
Children with craniosynostosis typically require surgery in order to repair the defect and prevent further damage. The main goals of surgery are to improve the appearance of the child’s head, to alleviate any excessive pressure on the brain, and to ensure there is enough room in the skull to allow for normal brain growth. Craniosynostosis is an extremely dangerous defect which can lead to significant complications for an affected child. Without treatment, the condition may become permanent and can lead to further harm, including increased intracranial pressure, seizures and developmental delay.
In 2006, the New England Journal of Medicine published a study in which researchers examined the adverse effects of SSRI use during pregnancy on infants exposed to the drugs in utero. According to researchers, infants whose mothers took an SSRI during the third trimester of pregnancy were six times more likely to be born with PPHN, compared to unexposed infants. 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 SSRI antidepressants, including Celexa, during pregnancy and an increased risk of PPHN. 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. The FDA also required all SSRI sponsors to update the warning labels on their drugs to include potential pregnancy precautions, particularly PPHN.
Additional SSRI birth defect studies have been conducted in recent years which have indicated a possible link between SSRIs like Celexa and adverse events among infants. According to a study published in the American Journal of Nursing, infants born to women who took an SSRI like Celexa during pregnancy were nearly twice as likely to be born with a septal heart defect. Another study published in Pediatrics determined that infants exposed to SSRIs in utero had an increased risk of suffering from abnormal heart rhythms, problems with alertness, unusual sleeping patterns, and inhibited neurological development.
Celexa has been labeled by the FDA as a pregnancy category C medication, a category reserved for drugs which have the potential to cause serious harm to a fetus when taken during pregnancy. If you are currently pregnant or planning to become pregnant and you are taking Celexa, consult your physician immediately. It may be dangerous to suddenly discontinue use of a prescription medication, but with your doctor’s help, you may be able to find a safer alternative to Celexa for treating your condition.
Craniosynostosis is a serious condition which can have life-altering complications for an affected child, and can also create an overwhelming financial burden for the child’s family. If you or a loved one has suffered from craniosynostosis and you believe Celexa to be the cause, contact a Celexa attorney as soon as possible. You may have grounds to file a Celexa lawsuit or join a potential Celexa class action lawsuit against Forest Laboratories in order to seek financial compensation for your injuries and medical expenses, as well as the pain and suffering endured by you and your family.
You are not at fault for any injuries resulting from the proper use of a potentially dangerous drug. Pharmaceutical companies are responsible for the safety of their medications and should be held accountable for adverse side effects sustained by consumers of their products. Unfortunately, some drug manufacturing companies intentionally conceal the more serious side effects of their medications in order to expedite the FDA approval process and to ensure their product is well-received by the public. This deceptive practice puts consumers at risk of suffering serious injuries, illnesses, and even death, consequences which could have been avoided had the drug company taken the necessary precautions. The only way for victims of alleged Celexa birth defects to protect their rights and collect the compensation they deserve is for them to hire a qualified Celexa lawyer to represent their case.