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Antidepressant usage stretches back several decades, to the days of “Mother’s Little Helper” to current advertisements on television requesting a patient speak with his or her doctor. Because antidepressants cover a wide range of medications, they’re divided into the following groups: Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, also known as SSRIs, serotonin norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), and tricyclic antidepressants, monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs).
Although all groups have been prescribed to treat major depressive disorder, medications like Celexa, Effexor, Lexapro, Paxil, Prozac, and Zoloft frequently get recommended for off-label uses, such as:
- Anxiety Disorder
- Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
- Eating Disorders
- Chronic pain
- Neuropathic pain
- Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
- Substance abuse
- Sleep disorders
- Social anxiety
- Panic disorders
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Nevertheless, ever since Prozac entered the antidepressant market in the late 1980s, lawsuits concerning its association with suicidal tendencies and birth defects have followed, with other SSRIs being included in recent years. Claims state the drugs resulted in unreasonably dangerous side effects, without warning or advice concerning usage from a manufacturer, doctor, or pharmacy.
Since the early 2000s, SSRIs have been prescribed to pregnant women, which increased birth defect risks. Celexa, Lexapro, Paxil, Prozac, and Zoloft appeared to be prescribed the most. Although doctors may be to blame in certain instances, especially if knowledge about associated birth defects had already been released, manufacturers withheld this information from the public for a number of years.
A 2005 FDA study found that expecting mothers taking an SSRI after the 20th week were six times as likely to have a child suffering from Persistent Newborn Pulmonary Hypertension (PPHN). Other side effects have included:
- Congenital malformations
- Neonatal abstinence syndrome
- Heart and lung abnormalities
- Danis syndrome
- Undescended testes
- Spinal bifida
- Septal defects, such as a cleft lip or palate
- Cranial defects
- Cardiac defects, such as tetralogy of fallot or a hypoplastic left or right heart
The FDA has issued warnings concerning “serotonin syndrome,” or the increased risk in giving birth to a child with PPHN, and touched on suicidal thinking and behavior and possible liver damage.
Studies have found that SSRI usage increases suicidal thoughts by six percent, and in response, the FDA has required Black Box warnings for antidepressants since 2004 for children and for ages 18 to 25 as of 2006.
The association, however, isn’t a mere correlation. SSRIs cause akathisia, a condition associated with suicidal tendencies, dysphoria, irritability, and depression. The FDA previously notified healthcare providers about the occurrence in patients with major depressive disorder during clinical trials, and followed that in 2004 with a Public Health Advisory about closely monitoring adults and children with depression at the beginning of treatment or whenever a dosage is changed.
Filing a Lawsuit
Trantolo & Trantolo’s Connecticut lawyers represent a range of antidepressant-related cases. The basic types fall into the following:
Off-Label Usage: Stretching back to 1999, lawsuits regarding illegal marketing have been associated with weight loss, substance abuse, sexual dysfunction, and dementia, among other conditions. Antidepressants falling within this category typically include Rhisperal, Depakote, Zyprexa, Seroquel, Geodon, Abilify, Neurotonin, and Prozac.
Medical Malpractice or a Defective Drug Claim: A doctor who knew of birth defect-related risks and prescribed a pregnant woman an SSRI may have committed medical malpractice. If the doctor was unaware and prescribed an SSRI to a pregnant woman, who gave birth to a child with at least one of the birth defects listed above, the plaintiff may have a defective drug or product liability claim.
Class Action: For certain antidepressants associated with birth defects or illegally marketed for off-label usage, such as Paxil, a class action lawsuit may already be in progress. A claimant may be recommended to become part of the ongoing class action lawsuit.
In all instances, the plaintiff must prove he or she experienced injury, or gave birth to a child with birth defects, as a direct result of taking an antidepressant, and was not informed of the dangerous side effects or given instructions. A plaintiff properly advised of the risks beforehand does not have a case.