Major depressive disorder, more commonly known as depression, is an extremely debilitating disorder which can affect virtually every aspect of an affected individual's life, causing changes in behavior, emotions and mood. Depression can affect adults and adolescents of varying ages, and may interfere with performance at work or school, sleeping and eating habits, and personal and social relationships. The most common symptoms of depression include low self-esteem and a loss of interest in activities that were once enjoyable. In order to treat depression and restore the individual's quality of life, many physicians prescribe one of the many antidepressant drugs currently on the market, including Effexor. Antidepressants are quickly becoming one of the most commonly prescribed pharmaceutical medications in the United States, and Effexor alone was the sixth most commonly prescribed antidepressant on the U.S. market in 2007, with 17.2 million prescriptions filled.
Despite the fact that antidepressant medications like Effexor have been approved by the FDA, recent research has surfaced which indicates a potential for some of the drugs to cause serious harm to a fetus when taken during pregnancy. According to a number of studies, women who take antidepressant drugs like Effexor while pregnant may significantly increase their risk of giving birth to children with one or more major and even life-threatening birth defects.
Effexor is the brand name of the antidepressant drug venlafaxine and is currently manufactured by Wyeth Pharmaceuticals, now a division of Pfizer, Inc. Effexor was approved by the FDA in 1993 and has since been prescribed to individuals suffering from major depressive disorder (depression), social anxiety disorder and generalized anxiety disorder. Effexor falls into the category of SNRI drugs, or serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors, which were developed more recently than the similar SSRI antidepressants, or selective serotonin-reuptake inhibitors. SNRIs function by inhibiting the "reuptake" of serotonin and norepinephrine, two neurotransmitters in the brain, thereby alleviating depression and improving certain mood disorders. SSRIs, in comparison, only act upon serotonin.
SNRI antidepressants like Effexor have become increasingly popular in recent years because of the drugs' slightly more successful history in treating depression, compared to SSRIs. There are very few SNRIs currently on the U.S. market, mostly because there were developed so recently. Effexor is very similar to another SNRI antidepressant called Pristiq (desvenlafaxine), which is also manufactured by Wyeth Pharmaceuticals. Although Effexor has only been approved for the treatment of depression and anxiety disorder, the drug is also often prescribed for off-label purposes like treating panic disorder and diabetic neuropathy. Effexor is taken orally with food and can be found in 25mg, 37.5mg, 50mg, 75mg and 100mg doses.
According to a number of medical studies, SNRI antidepressants like Effexor may cause severe birth defects among infants exposed to the drugs in utero. Among these birth defects are:
"These birth defects have the potential to cause significant pain and suffering for an affected child, and may even lead to death."
These birth defects have the potential to cause significant pain and suffering for an affected child, and may even lead to death. Some of the more severe birth defects, namely spina bifida, PPHN, heart defects, neural tube birth defects, craniosynostosis, omphalocele and anal atresia, pose a life-threatening danger to affected children. Children born with other birth defects, like cleft lip, cleft palate and certain limb defects, may not face a risk of death, but they will experience physical difficulties as a result of their malformation. Nearly all of these potential Effexor birth defects will require intensive medical treatment and possibly surgery in order to correct the defect, and some may require long-term care in order to monitor the child's progress and prevent further complications.
SNRI antidepressants like Effexor are similar, but not identical, to SSRI antidepressants. Because research regarding the former class of medications is lacking, experts can use SSRI studies to evaluate the potentially harmful nature of SNRIs. In reviewing a number of SSRI studies, experts have identified a possible connection between SNRIs like Effexor and birth defects in infants. One of the most revealing birth defect studies was published in 2006 in the New England Journal of Medicine. The side effects study involved 377 women who took an SSRI drug during the third trimester of pregnancy and gave birth to an infant with PPHN, and 836 women who took an SSRI while pregnant and gave birth to a healthy child. The report indicated that up to twelve out of 1,000 infants exposed to an SSRI antidepressant in utero were born with PPHN, compared to what would be expected among the general population, which is one to two out of 1,000. According to this study, infants whose mothers take an SSRI drug after the twentieth week of pregnancy may have an alarming six times increased risk of developing PPHN, a life-threatening heart and lung condition.
Shortly after this NEJM study was released, the FDA issued a public health advisory warning patients and healthcare providers about the increased risk of PPHN among infants exposed to SSRIs in utero. The FDA also required all sponsors of SSRIs to update their drugs' warning labels to include potential pregnancy precautions, including the risk of PPHN. In 2007, the NEJM published two additional studies which indicated an increased risk of birth defects among infants exposed to SSRIs in utero. The first study found that women who took SSRIs during the first trimester of pregnancy were nearly twice as likely to give birth to infants with birth defects like anal atresia, limb defects and club foot. Other SSRI-related birth defects included cleft palate, cleft lip and neural tube birth defects, among other malformations. In the second study, researchers determined that infants born to women who took an SSRI during pregnancy were more than twice as likely to develop devastating birth defects like anecephaly, craniosynostosis and omphalocele.
A more recent study was published in the journal Clinical Epidemiology in 2010 which studied the adverse effects of SSRI antidepressant use on infants exposed to the drugs in utero. The study involved over 200,000 women separated into two groups: one of which included women who took at least one SSRI while pregnant and another which included women who received no SSRI treatment during pregnancy. According to the report, the prevalence of birth defects among exposed infants was 5.1%, compared to the prevalence among unexposed infants, which was 3.5%. Researchers found a connection between the use of SSRIs during pregnancy and an increased risk of heart defects in particular. Another SSRI study published in the American Journal of Nursing in 2010 identified a 0.9% prevalence of heart defects (namely atrial and ventricular heart defects) among infants exposed to an SSRI in utero, compared to a prevalence of 0.5% among unexposed infants. In addition, the risk was further increased for infants exposed to more than one SSRI during pregnancy.
The FDA has classified Effexor as a pregnancy category C medication. This means that the drug has the potential to cause harm to a human fetus when taken during pregnancy. If you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant and you are taking Effexor, consult your healthcare provider immediately. According to the FDA, pharmaceutical medications like Effexor should only be prescribed to pregnant women if the possible benefits of the treatment outweigh the potential risks to the fetus. The birth defects potentially associated with Effexor use during pregnancy may significantly influence this decision. It may not be safe to discontinue use of a prescription medication without medical consent, but with your doctor's help, you may be able to find an alternative method of treatment for your condition.
The birth defects potentially linked to Effexor use during pregnancy may cause significant physical complications for an affected child, as well as create an overwhelming emotional and financial burden for the child's family. If you or a loved one has suffered from a life-altering birth defect which you believe to be associated with the use of Effexor, contact an Effexor attorney to discuss your legal options. You may have grounds to file an Effexor lawsuit or join a potential Effexor class action lawsuit against Wyeth Pharmaceuticals, in order to seek financial compensation for your injuries, the medical expenses resulting from injury treatment, and the pain and suffering endured by you and your family. Defective drug lawsuits also serve the function of bringing public attention to the potentially harmful nature of certain prescription medications.
Victims of adverse side effects caused by dangerous drugs are not at fault, and should not be held accountable for the consequences associated with these injuries. Drug manufacturing companies are responsible for producing safe medications and should be held liable for serious injuries caused by their products. Unfortunately, this isn't always the case. The only way to protect your rights and stand up to big drug companies is to hire a qualified Effexor lawyer to represent your case.
Spread the word so women are aware of the risks for both anticonvulsant birth defects and antidepressant birth defects and so families dealing with the hardship and expenses of lifetime care can get financial help from experienced class action attorneys. Learn more about Side Effects from prescription drugs.
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Attorneys are investigating the possibility that birth defects caused birth defects if the mothers took medication while pregnant. Lawyers are currently reviewing the following drugs; Celexa, Effexor, Lexapro, Paxil, Pristiq, Prozac and Zoloft. Severe effects can be caused during the first trimester of pregnancy. This website has no relationship with any of the aforementioned drugs or pharmaceutical companies. Only your doctor can give you medical advice.