The class of anti-depressant drugs known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs, has long been linked to causing birth defects in infants born to women who use them during pregnancies.
There have been so many SSRI birth defect lawsuits filed against such best-selling medications as Prozac, Zoloft, Paxil, Lexapro and Depakote that federal court officials have decided to coordinate them before a single judge.
In what is called a multidistrict litigation, the judge is overseeing pre-trial evidence-gathering and other procedures that serve as a precursor to what could eventually become a huge class-action case.
The number of such lawsuits is expected to increase as SSRI birth defects lawyers continue to offer free consultations to families who have had infants suffering from birth defects linked to SSRIs.
What are the allegations contained in these SSRI birth defect lawsuits? Among the health problems that women claim were caused in their infants because of the use of SSRIs during pregnancy are:
- A life-threatening lung condition known as Persistent Pulmonary Hypertension of the Newborn
- Club Foot
- Cleft Palate
- Cleft Lip
- Ventricular septal malformation
- Tetralogy of Fallot
- Limb deformities
- Genital defects
- Heart defects
- Abnormal intestinal defects
- Atrial septal defect
- Ventral septal defect
Now, the findings of a new study published in the British Medical Journal show that patients taking SSRIs may be at higher risk of developing an abnormal heart beat than patients who take other medications.
The medical web site HealthDay reported that researchers found that the widely prescribed medications may extend the length of electrical activity in the heart, called a QT interval. A long QT interval is an indicator of abnormal heart rhythms.
“For people who are taking higher doses of citalopram (Celexa) or escitalopram (Lexapro), they should discuss these doses with their doctors,” the report quoted lead researcher Dr. Roy Perlis, director of the Center for Experimental Drugs and Diagnostics in the psychiatry department at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.
“They should absolutely not just stop their medicine,” he added.
The report quoted Perlis as saying that QT interval is just one indicator of cardiac risk, so there are many other factors to consider in choosing a depression treatment. “It’s important to know that there are other medicines which appear to be safe in terms of effects on heart rhythm,” he added.
The report also noted that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration warned recently that SSRIs, among the most prescribed medications on pharmacy shelves, could cause this problem.