New Lawsuit Says Effexor Hid Risks of Birth Defects

A couple from Ohio is suing the drug makers of Effexor in Pennsylvania state court, accusing them of hiding the many risks posed by the antidepressant to developing fetuses.  Effexor (generic name venlafaxine) is an antidepressant serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (SNRI) drug used by millions of Americans to treat depression disorders, anxiety, as well as a number of panic disorders.  Its’ purpose is to target certain chemicals in the brain, which may become unbalanced, causing depression.

Effexor’s manufacturer, Wyeth, claims that Effexor increases serotonin and norepinephrine levels in the brain, allowing more efficient transmission of electrical signals to the brain, increasing “feel good” feelings. Researchers believe that depression is caused by an imbalance of chemicals and that serotonin is key to mood elevation.

Effexor was first prescribed in 1994.   As early as 2005, it was revealed that women who took Effexor during their pregnancy had an increased risk of the following birth defects:

-Persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn (PPHN)

-Congenital heart lesions and anomalies

-Down’s syndrome

-Undescended testicles in males


-Spina bifida

-Clubfoot (one or both feet turn downward and inward)

-Septal defects; cleft lip and/or cleft palate

-Omphalocele (abdominal birth defects)

-Craniosynostosis (cranial birth defects)

On December 13, 2006 the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced antidepressants prescribed to young adults are risky. Suicidal thoughts were highest in the 18-24 year age group.  Effexor generated $2.1 billion in 2004, making it Wyeth’s biggest moneymaking drug.

The risk of PPHN is very serious. It is a life-threatening birth defect, where the newborn’s arteries remain constricted, limiting blood flow and causing oxygen deprivation.  Although there is little or no visible congenital defect, infants can suffer respiratory failure at birth, requiring intubation. Unfortunately, 10-20% of infants with this disorder will not survive.

In July 2006, the FDA issued a warning about PPHN, urging makers of various antidepressant drugs to add a warning of the potential risk of PPHN. It was based on the results of a study in the New England Journal of Medicine, stating that women who took antidepressants during pregnancy were six times more likely to have a child with PPHN than women who did not take antidepressants.

In addition to the above mentioned birth defects linked to Effexor during pregnancy, in a June 2011 study published in the Archives of General Psychiatry, a strong correlation between autism birth defects and antidepressants like Effexor was found. The study involved almost 300 children diagnosed with autism, and found that women who took an SNRI antidepressant while pregnant were twice as likely to give birth to a child with an autism spectrum disorder than mothers who did not.

These studies are very disturbing, and prove that this drug is dangerous to newborns.  In addition, the withdrawal effects of Effexor are described as “horrific,” and “can bring you to your knees.” The manufacturer of Effexor really should be held accountable for all the harm and danger they caused and are legally responsible for.  It is supposed to be such a happy time when you have a baby, if the baby is healthy.  Unfortunately, so many families have had their lives changed forever, due to the greed and negligence of these drug companies. Is this justice?

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