Dangers of Pharmaceutical Drugs While Pregnant - Consumer Justice Foundation

Dangers of Pharmaceutical Drugs While Pregnant

Written by Faith Anderson on June 6, 2011

American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology Study Reveals Alarming Data Regarding Drug Use During Pregnancy

According to a study published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, 80% of all pregnant women in the United States reported taking prescription or over-the-counter medications while pregnant, and 50% reported taking at least one medication during the first trimester, the time when the fetus is most vulnerable to life-altering birth defects.

Researchers from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Nation Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities, Boston University, and Harvard observed a number of studies which interviewed more than 30,000 women about their use of pharmaceutical drugs during pregnancy. According to the study, over the past three decades, the number of pregnant women who took at least one drug during the first trimester of pregnancy skyrocketed 60%, and the number of women who took four or more medications during pregnancy reportedly tripled.

In general, the potential connection between pharmaceutical drugs and birth defect risks are made after reviewing post-market surveillance information. Unfortunately, this means that the risk of birth defects isn’t discovered until the drug is already distributed to the public and problems already begin to appear. Because of ethical laws governing medical testing, most drugs approved by the FDA are not tested on pregnant women before being marketed to consumers, so information about the effects of these drugs on pregnant women and their unborn children is often severely limited.

Increased Concerns Regarding the Use of Pharmaceutical Drugs During Pregnancy

Significant concerns have been raised recently regarding the potential pregnancy risks associated with many blockbuster drugs, including anticonvulsant drugs like Depakote, Topamax and Tegretol, and antidepressants like Paxil, Zoloft and Prozac. Unfortunately, these prescription medications have been used by millions of pregnant women in the United States, as a lack of concrete birth defect data has prevented patients and healthcare professionals from making informed decisions about the safety of taking these drugs during pregnancy.

On March 4, 2011, the FDA issued a public health advisory, warning patients and healthcare providers about the increased risk of cleft lip and cleft palate among infants whose mothers took the anticonvulsant drug Topamax while pregnant. Between January 2007 and December 2010, approximately 30 million Topamax prescriptions were filled by individuals suffering from epilepsy, seizures, migraines, or other medical conditions. Topamax, approved by the FDA in 2004, is now believed to increase a child’s risk of oral clefts by twenty times when taken during pregnancy. Similar data has led to increased concerns about the safety of taking other anticonvulsants like Depakote, Dilantin and Tegretol during pregnancy. Serious concerns have also been raised over drug companies’ delayed warnings about the potential risk of birth defects associated with SSRI antidepressants like Zoloft, Paxil, Prozac, Celexa and Lexapro, which are some of the most commonly prescribed medications in the United States.

Defective Drug Lawsuits for Birth Defects

More than 800 families have filed a Paxil lawsuit against pharmaceutical company, GlaxoSmithKline, on behalf of children diagnosed with persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn (PPHN) and other medical issues. These lawsuits allege that the pharmaceutical company was aware of the risk of heart defects linked to Paxil use during pregnancy, and failed to disclose this information to the public. GlaxoSmithKline has reportedly reached settlement agreements in hundreds of Paxil birth defect cases. Recent months have also resulted in a number of potential Zoloft lawsuits for birth defects sustained by infants exposed to the antidepressant drug in utero. These lawsuits allege that Zoloft manufacturer, Pfizer, Inc., failed to adequately warn consumers about the potential adverse side effects for unborn children exposed to Zoloft during pregnancy.

Some pharmaceutical drugs can severely inhibit the proper growth of a fetus in utero, resulting in congenital birth defects. Unfortunately, without accurate information about the potential birth defect risk associated with prescription medications, pregnant women may continue to take these drugs, unaware of the irreversible harm they may be inflicting on their unborn child. Women who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant should consult their healthcare professional before beginning or continuing use of a prescription medication. If you took a pharmaceutical drug during pregnancy and your child was born with a major birth defect, you may be entitled to financial compensation, which you can collect by filing a defective drug lawsuit against the drug manufacturing company.

Posted Under: FDA - Food and Drug Administration
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