SSRI is a term used to describe a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor and is used to treat specific brain conditions. These medications are also known as anti-depressants, because they are primarily used to treat depression. However, they can also be described to treat panic disorders, anxiety disorders and obsessive-compulsive disorder. These types of disorders can be caused when a certain chemical in the brain called serotonin becomes unbalanced. These medications work by allowing more serotonin to remain in the brain for a longer period of time.
While numerous SSRI lawsuits have been filed charging that the antidepressants caused patients to exhibit violent behavior, new information indicates that SSRI drugs may cause another serious concern: birth defects. Recent studies show that the drugs are directly linked to birth defects, therefore leading to a rise in lawsuits in the US.
There are 6 common name brand SSRIs: Celexa (citalopram), Lexapro (escitalopram oxalate), Luvox (fluvoxamine), Prozac (fluoxetine), Paxil (paroxetine), and Zoloft (sertraline).
Other newer medications chemically unrelated to the other antidepressants but with similar side effects to SSRIs include Remeron (mirtazepine) and Wellbutrin (bupropion).
An article published in The New England Journal of Medicine statesSymptoms of clinical depression affect 8 to 20% of women; during pregnancy, about 10% of women are affected, and many of these women are treated with antidepressants. In the late 1980s, a new class of antidepressants, selective serotonin-reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), appeared and rapidly gained widespread acceptance because they have fewer side effects than the older tricyclic antidepressants and pose less risk when taken in overdose. However, concern has been raised about their potential effects on the fetus. Neonatal effects, known as SSRI neonatal withdrawal syndrome or SSRI abstinence syndrome, are now well established, but the relation of antenatal SSRI exposure to birth defects remains controversial.â€
In another article, this one written by Deborah Kotz for USNews.com in June of 07, Kotz states that, One study of nearly 10,000 infants born with birth defects and nearly 6,000 healthy infants found that women who took sertraline (Zoloft) in the first few months of pregnancy had twice the risk of having a baby born with a heart defect. Kotz draws her information from the two studies that were published in The New England Journal of Medicine.
In this same article Kotz quotes Charles Lockwood, chair of obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive science at Yale University School of Medicine and spokesperson for the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, “As the evidence grows, it’s becoming clearer in my mind that the link between SSRIs and birth defects is tenuous at best but probably real.” ACOG already recommends against the use of Paxil in pregnancy because of previous research suggesting it increases heart defects, but Lockwood says he’s not yet convinced that other SSRIs pose smaller risks. He believes that pregnant women taking any SSRI should get regular sonograms to check for fetal heart defects and that bupropion (Wellbutrin), a non-SSRI, should be considered as a first line of therapy; it’s mild and considered to be the safest antidepressant but it also may not work as well for severe depression.
However as of late, even the recommended drug by Mr. Lockwood is producing controversial results. Reuters reported in May 2010 that Wellbutrin (bupropion) may not be so safe after all. In fact, it may be just as dangerous. The report states that Wellbutrin, may cause â€œmore than double the risk of heart defects known as left outflow tract defects, compared with infants whose mothers had not used the drug.â€