What Is Effexor?
Also known as Venlafaxine, Effexor is an antidepressant medication and belongs to a group of drugs known as “selective serotonin and norepinephrine re-uptake inhibitors (SSNRI’s). If chemicals in the brain become unbalanced this can cause depression and Effexor can treat this. The medication is used to treat anxiety, panic attacks and major depressive disorders.
Effexor Birth Defects
If a mother was taking Effexor during her pregnancy then the baby could be at increased risk of suffering from Effexor side effects. The side effects of Effexor have been known to include delayed development and defects of the heart and / or lungs.
Unfortunately, there has been little research conducted on the likely birth defects that taking Effexor while pregnant can bring, but other SSNRI drugs that are similar to Effexor have certainly been linked to birth defects.
There are other birth defects that are reportedly linked to SSNRI drugs similar to Effexor:
- Cleft palate and / or cleft lip
- Club foot (this is where one or both feet turn inward and downward)
- Anal atresia (this is either complete r partial closure of the anus)
- Nueral tube defects of the brain and / or spinal cord
- Infant omphalocele (defects of the abdominal wall)
- An abnormally shaped skull known as Crniosynostosis
Effexor Side Effects
It is claimed by the manufacturer that Effexor enhances the user’s feelings of well being by increasing the levels of serotonin and norepinephrine in the spaces between cells in the brain. By increasing these levels a more efficient transmission of electrical impulses takes place making the patient feel better.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the drug but recent studies have caused alarm about the side effects of Effexor and the possible birth defects that can occur.
Effexor And Pregnancy
Research conducted into the effects of pregnant women in their first trimester taking SSNRI drugs similar to Effexor has concluded that there is a 40% increased risk of their babies suffering birth defects, with 60% increased risk of heart defects. The research established a link between Effexor and birth defects.
A study in Denmark found a link between SSNRI drug taking and serious heart malformations which included cardiac malformations. It was also discovered that women who took SSNRI medications 30 days prior to conception up to the end of their first trimester were at most risk compared to women that did not take the drug during the same period.
Health Canada warned all pregnant women in 2006 as well as all women wanting to become pregnant that taking SSNRI drugs similar to Effexor could have serious even life threatening effects on their babies. They also advised mothers who were nursing that taking SSNRI medications could have a negative impact on infants through their secreted milk.
The FDA has placed Effexor in Pregnancy Category C which means that there could be a risk to unborn children if the drug is taken during pregnancy.
Delays In Development
The March 2010 issue of Pediatrics contained an article which suggested a possible link between infants whose mothers had taken antidepressants in their second or third trimester and delays in the development of their children. The types of delays linked were walking later and sitting up without support later than other children whose mothers had not taken antidepressants. The article stated that children of mothers that took the antidepressants which included SSNRI drugs and Effexor walked a month later and sat up sixteen days later than children whose mothers had not taken these drugs.
It was also explained that when they were nineteen months old, the children whose mothers had taken the antidepressants had a lot of difficulty occupying themselves for more than fifteen minutes at a time where children who had not been exposed to the drugs did not have this difficulty.
Further research into this article suggests a “permanent or reversible effect of antidepressants exposure on fetal brain development, which may depend on the timing of exposure during pregnancy”.
An Effexor lawsuit against the manufacturer, Wyeth, for birth defects claims that the company was negligent and did not fulfill its duties to protect the public. A number of lawsuits claim that the company did not properly warn the public about the risks of birth defects if Effexor was taken during pregnancy.
In a Philadelphia court in August 2012, two families brought lawsuit cases against Wyeth which alleged that the company was culpable for the birth defects of their children. It was claimed that the company had prior knowledge of studies which linked Effexor to birth defects such as persistent pulmonary hypertension, major heart defects and other congenital defects. Despite the company’s awareness of these risks they did not disclose this to doctors and their patients.
Manufacturers of medications have a legal responsibility to not only thoroughly test the safety of their drugs but also to disclose any risks to the public in the form of warnings. During pregnancy, depression and anxiety can be extremely debilitating and the women and their doctors should have been advised of the birth defects risks so that an alternative course of treatment could have been undertaken. This was the mainstay of the two Philadelphia cases. The mothers consulted their doctors who relied on the labels on the product to disclose any risks.
It is expected that many more Effexor litigation cases similar to these will be brought across the country. Effexor lawyers can explain the legal options that they have to families that have been affected. If you or a loved one had a baby with birth defects and you or they were taking Effexor during the pregnancy then an Effexor attorney will be able to help you with your compensation claim.