Drugmakers have enthusiastically promoted Lexapro as an effective treatment for depression and anxiety. As a result, it has become one of the most popular prescription antidepressants in the United States. Sales of the drug topped $355 million in 2011.
Lexapro, which is made by Forest Laboratories, belongs to a class of antidepressant drugs known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). After a decade on the market, the first generic form of Lexapro, known as escitalopram, was approved in March 2012.
However, recent news of studies linking the drug to autism and serious birth defects — and a huge settlement with the U.S. government over improper marketing — leaves many questioning whether Lexapro ultimately became so popular because the public wasn’t made aware of its risks.
Some women who took the antidepressant Lexapro while pregnant had babies born with birth defects and filed lawsuits against the drug's manufacturer. New studies show the drug also increases the risk of autism when women take the drug while pregnant.
Trouble Over Improper Marketing of Lexapro
Other popular SSRIs include Prozac, Paxil and Zoloft. These drugs, which affect chemicals in the brain, are used to treat major depressive disorder and generalized anxiety disorder. The FDA approved Lexapro for these uses in August 2002.
But according to a document released by the U.S. Senate’s Special Committee on Aging in 2009, Forest Labs wasted no time aggressively marketing the prescription drug after its approval. The document details Forest Labs' plans to launch the drug’s marketing plan by Sept. 5, 2002. It reportedly included ways to compensate physicians and psychiatrists for prescribing Lexapro.
The plan eventually landed the company in hot water. In 2009, the U.S. Department of Justice accused Forest Labs of marketing Lexapro for unapproved uses, failing to disclose negative results from clinical trials and paying kickbacks to doctors who prescribed the drug. In 2010, the company’s subsidiary, Forest Pharmaceuticals Inc., agreed to pay more than $313 million to settle the charges over Lexapro and two other drugs, Levothroid and Celexa.
The drugmaker currently faces more legal troubles over Lexapro. The prescription drug has been linked to birth defects in children born to women who used the antidepressant during pregnancy. Some families have already filed lawsuits because the company marketed the drug as being safe for pregnant women and women of childbearing age.
Why People Sue for Lexapro Injuries
Families of children born with prescription drug-related autism and birth defects, like those linked to Lexapro, may be entitled to compensation for their injuries. The high emotional and financial costs of coping with prescription drug injuries can be devastating. However, affected families may have claims to financial assistance from the drugmakers responsible for their injuries.
For example, it can cost a family about $2.4 million dollars over the course of an autistic child's lifetime for care, education and therapy. A 2015 study in JAMA Pediatrics linked Lexapro and other SSRIs taken during pregnancy to a 200 percent increase in autism.
Lexapro may also cause birth defects when taken during the pregnancy.
Health care providers sometimes prescribe SSRIs during pregnancy to prevent potentially debilitating mental disorders. Drugmakers are quick to praise the effectiveness of SSRIs in treating these disorders. However, doctors and patients are also entitled to information about dangers associated with a prescription drug so that they can weigh the risks against the benefits. This information is vital so they can choose different treatments, if appropriate.
This is why drugmakers are under a legal duty to test their drugs and adequately warn the public about any related dangers. When they fail to do so, they deprive patients and their doctors of important choices over their health care. When drugmakers market their products without adequate warnings about the dangers, they may be held legally liable for their negligence.
Some families have already filed lawsuits against Forest Labs and Forest Pharmaceuticals for allegedly failing to provide adequate warnings about Lexapro’s increased risk of birth defects.
Filing a Lexapro Claim
In February 2012, three mothers who were prescribed Lexapro during pregnancy filed lawsuits against Forest Labs and Forest Pharmaceuticals. The lawsuits, filed in St. Louis Circuit Court, allege that the companies marketed the drug to women of childbearing age and expectant mothers despite knowing about increased risks of birth defects. The women also allege that the companies did not fully disclose the results of clinical testing and continue to fail to alert the public.
The women did not know about increased risks until their children were born with birth defects. Kimberlee Fisher’s daughter, Isabella, was born with spina bifida. Kristy Hernandez’s daughter, Kayla, was born with club foot. Leah Scott’s son, Damien Guidry, was born with cleft lip and palate. The mothers assert they would not have taken the drug if they had been properly warned that it could cross the placenta, causing the development of birth defects.
More cases like these are expected across the country.
If you took Lexapro during pregnancy or your baby developed birth defects, you may also be entitled to damages. However, each case differs. So consider speaking to a prescription drug attorney about whether you are eligible to file a claim.
|Families who choose to sue for Lexapro injuries may be entitled to damages, including:
|Costs of medical bills and continuing care for their child.
||Lost wages resulting from the need to provide increased care.
|Pain and suffering.
||Other damages, including potential punitive damages to discourage similar conduct.