News linking the popular antidepressant Effexor to birth defects has stunned women across the country. Not only has the prescription drug been promoted as an effective treatment for depression and anxiety, but it has also been marketed as safe for pregnant women. However, studies show that antidepressants like Effexor carry an increased risk of certain birth defects if taken by women of childbearing age or pregnant women.
Effexor (venlafaxine) belongs to a category of drugs known as serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs). These prescription drugs are used to treat depression and anxiety by affecting the balance of chemicals in the brain. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Effexor for these uses in 1993. However, allegations have since emerged that the drug’s maker, Wyeth Pharmaceuticals, marketed Effexor as safe for pregnant women despite knowledge of increased risks for certain birth defects. Wyeth is now a subsidiary of Pfizer.
Effexor Linked to Serious Birth Defects
Effexor taken during pregnancy can affect the unborn fetus.
|Infants born to women who were prescribed the drug during pregnancy may develop birth defects, including:|
|Atrial or ventricular septal defects||Heart murmurs|
|Aortic stenosis||Pulmonary stenosis|
|Persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn (PPHN)||Valve malformations and other heart and lung defects|
Families who hold drugmakers accountable for these types of birth defects may be eligible for compensation. They may be awarded money damages to help pay for the costs of their child’s ongoing medical care and their lost wages. In addition, courts may award damages for their pain and suffering and punitive damages to discourage drugmakers from more negligent conduct.
Some mothers who had babies with birth defects after taking Effexor have already filed legal claims.
Legal claims against Wyeth for Effexor birth defect injuries allege that the company was negligent in its duties to protect the public. Specifically, families who have been injured allege that the drugmaker did not adequately warn the public about higher risks of birth defects after taking Effexor during pregnancy.
For instance, in August 2012, two families filed lawsuits in a Philadelphia court alleging that Wyeth was responsible for their children’s birth defects. The Adamczyk and Demastus families claim that the drugmaker had knowledge of clinical studies linking Effexor to birth defects, including heart defects, persistent pulmonary hypertension and other congenital birth defects. The families claim that although the company was aware of the dangers, it failed to disclose potential problems to doctors and patients.
Drugmakers are under a legal duty to not only test the safety of their products, but also warn the public of any risks. In this case, women and their doctors deserved to know about increased risks of injury to unborn fetuses. Depression and anxiety can be debilitating, but if pregnant Effexor users and their doctors had been adequately warned about birth defect risks, they could have chosen different treatment options.
That’s exactly what the Adamczyk and Demastus families claim in their lawsuits. The mothers in both families consulted with their doctors and relied on product labels to disclose any birth defect and other pregnancy risks. However, they had received no warning about what eventually happened.
Lilypearl Demastus and Alvia Adamczyk were both born with life-threatening congenital birth defects. Lilypearl was born with craniosynostosis, a condition in which the sutures in the baby’s skull fuse prematurely. It requires surgery to relieve pressure on the brain and allow room for the brain to grow. Alvia was born with hypoplastic left heart syndrome, a rare congenital heart defect in which the heart valve is underdeveloped, affecting blood circulation and breathing. This condition also requires surgery, sometimes a heart transplant, and ongoing care.
In their complaints, both mothers say they would not have taken Effexor if they had been warned about these risks.
More cases like these are expected across the country. A prescription drug attorney can explain the legal options to other affected families.