SSRI antidepressants including the popular drug Effexor (generic: venlafaxine) have been linked to variety of severe birth defects including Persistent Pulmonary Hypertension (PPHN), heart, lung, abdominal and cranial defects.
Effexor: An Overview
Effexor® (venlafaxine) is an antidepressant selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) drug used by millions of Americans to treat depressive disorder, anxiety, and a number of panic disorders. It is designed to affect chemicals in the brain that may become unbalanced and cause depression. Manufacturer Wyeth claims that Effexor increases serotonin and norepinephrine levels in the spaces between the cells in the brain, and that these increased levels allow more efficient transmission of electrical signals to the brain and thus increase an individual’s feelings of well-being.
Although Effexor is FDA approved, recent studies have raised concern about birth defects associated with the drug. FDA lists Effexor in Pregnancy Category C, which means that animal reproduction studies have shown an adverse effect on the fetus.
FDA Video: SSRI Antidepressant Birth Defects
Below is an excellent video produced by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA), which warns patients and physicians of serious, life-threatening birth defects linked to SSRI antidepressants.
Read the Full Transcript: SSRI Antidepressant Birth Defects
Congenital Heart Defects
The U.S. Food & Drug Administration has warned doctors and patients that exposure to SSRI’s such as Effexor during pregnancy pose a serious risk to the fetus and has been linked to an increased risk of Congenital Heart Defects.
More specifically, the most common form of Effexor induced heart birth defects observed by our firm has been either Atrial Septal Defects or Ventricular Septal Defects.
Coarctation of the Aorta
A recent study has identified a link between the controversial antidepressant Effexor (generic: venlafaxine) and a severe congenital birth defect known as coarctation of the aorta. This defect occurs when the heart’s chief artery, the aorta, becomes overly narrow, making it more difficult for the heart to pump blood and oxygen to the body. Signs and symptoms of Effexor-induced coarctation of the aorta may include high blood pressure, shortness of breath, nose bleeds, and cold feet or legs.
A new study conducted by a research team at the National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has attempted to determine whether the maternal use of Effexor can cause birth defects in babies exposed to the drug in the womb. The research, which was titled “Association between reported venlafaxine use in early pregnancy and birth defects, national birth defects prevention study, 1997-2007,” found statistically significant associations between Effexor exposure and coarctation of the aorta, as well as a number of other serious birth defects. The study adds to the growing body of evidence linking Effexor to severe congenital abnormalities.
Coarctation of the aorta is a severe congenital birth defect that involves a narrowing of part of the aorta – the largest artery in the body, which originates from the left ventricle of the heart and extends down to the abdomen. The aorta’s chief duty is to carry oxygen-rich blood from the heart to the vessels that supply the body with blood and nutrients. If part of the aorta is narrowed, the heart has to work extra hard to pass blood through the artery. In mild cases of coarctation of the aorta, telltale symptoms may not manifest until the child has reached adolescence or even adulthood. In more severe cases, newborns will display symptoms shortly after birth.
Symptoms of Coarctation of the Aorta
Signs and symptoms of Effexor-induced coarctation of the aorta may include:
- Chest pain
- Cold feet or legs
- Dizziness or fainting
- Decreased ability to exercise
- Failure to thrive
- Leg cramps with exercise
- Poor growth
- Pounding headache
- Shortness of breath
Babies born with these symptoms will typically undergo surgery either right after birth or soon afterward. During surgery, the narrowed part of the aorta will be removed or opened. If the problem area is relatively small, the two free ends of the aorta may be reconnected (a procedure known as an end-to-end anastomosis). If the large section of the aorta is removed, a synthetic graft or one of the patient’s own arteries may be used to fill the gap. In other cases, doctors may try to stretch open the narrowed part of the aorta by using a balloon that is inflated in the blood vessel. This procedure is referred to as a balloon angioplasty.
Persistent Pulmonary Hypertension of the Newborn (PPHN)
Recently, The New England Journal of Medicine released the results of a case-controlled study wherein SSRI’s including Effexor were linked to an increased risk of an infant being born with Persistent Pulmonary Hypertension of the Newborn (PPHN).
Shortly after the aforementioned study was released, the FDA issued another Public Health Advisory warning that exposure to Effexor during pregnancy posed a serious risk to the fetus and was linked to an increased risk of PPHN.
Abdominal & Cranial Birth Defects
According to information released from the National Birth Defects Prevention Study of Infants, SSRI antidepressants like Effexor may cause two separate congenital abnormalities called Omphalocele and Craniosynostosis.
Omphalocele is a congenital (present at birth) abdominal wall defect at the base of the umbilical cord (umbilicus); the infant is born with a sac protruding through the defect which contains small intestine, liver, and large intestine.
Craniosynostosis is a congenital (present at birth) defect that causes one or more sutures on a baby’s head to close earlier than normal. Sutures are connections that separate each individual skull bones. The early closing of a suture leads to an abnormally shaped head.
Effexor and Autism
A June 2011 study published in the Archives of General Psychiatry found a strong correlation between autism birth defects and antidepressants like Effexor. The study involved 298 children diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD), and found that women who took an SSRI antidepressant while pregnant were twice as likely to give birth to a child with an ASD than mothers who did not. The scientists who conducted the study have advised doctors and patients to carefully weigh the benefits vs. risks of taking antidepressants carefully before beginning a regiment.
Known Effexor Side Effects
- Birth Defects
- Congenital Heart Defects, Atrial or Ventricular Septal Defects (hole in heart)
- Persistent Pulmonary Hypertension of the Newborn (PPHN)
- Abdominal Birth Defects / Omphalocele
- Cranial Birth Defects / Craniosynostosis
Birth Defects Linked to Antidepressants – What Type of Effexor Lawsuits Are Being Filed?
Our lawyers are filing Effexor lawsuits for injured individuals and families for the following life-threatening birth defects that have been linked to the use of Effexor and other antidepressants:
- Atrial Septal Defects (ASD)
- Ventricular Septal Defects (VSD)
- Persistent Pulmonary Hypertension of the Newborn (PPHN)
- Tricuspid Valve (Ebstein’s Anomaly)
- Mitral Valve Prolapse
- Transposition of the Great Arteries (TGA)
- Transposition of the Great Vessels (TGV)
- Tetralogy of Fallot (TOF)
- Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome (HLHS)
- Hypoplastic Right Heart Syndrome (HRHS)
- Tricuspid Atresia
- Aortic Stenosis
- Pulmonary Atresia (PA)
- Patent Ductus Arteriosus (PDA)
- Coarctation of the Aorta
- Truncus Arteriosus
- Tricuspid Valve Stenosis
- Heart Murmur
- Pulmonary Stenosis
- Gastroschisis – abdominal wall defect
- Esophageal Stenosis
- Cleft Palate
- Anal Atresia
- Spina Bifida