Canadian woman files Paxil class action lawsuit on behalf of birth defects victims

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by Jim Orr

In September 2005, the drug giant GlaxoSmithKline sent a letter to doctors warning that taking the drug Paxil during pregnancy could increase the chances of cardiovascular defects. However, many believe the company knew or at least should have known about the risk long before then.

A class action has now been certified for “any person in Canada, born with cardiovascular defects, to women who ingested Paxil while pregnant, and the mothers of those persons.” The suit was brought by a woman who alleges her use of the antidepressant Paxil during pregnancy resulted in her baby being born with a hole between the ventricular chambers of her heart. Her baby was born two weeks before GlaxoSmithKline sent the warning letter to doctors. The central issue in the class action will be whether the information published by GlaxoSmithKline at any given time reflected all that it knew or ought to have known, and whether the warnings issued could and should have been issued at an earlier date.

Paxil is approved for the treatment of depression and several other psychiatric disorders. In 2005, the FDA alerted health care professionals and patients that “early results of studies” for Paxil (paroxetine) suggested that “the drug increases the risk for birth defects, particularly heart defects, when women take it during the first three months of pregnancy.” Since then, several anti-depressants have been publicly linked to serious birth defects when used during pregnancy.

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are a widely prescribed class of drugs most often used as antidepressants to treat major depression and anxiety disorders. Studies have shown the risk of birth defect is increased for babies whose mothers take SSRI anti-depressants during pregnancy. Several studies have shown that antidepressant drugs like Zoloft, Paxil, Celexa, Effexor, Lexapro, Pristiq and Prozac can double the risk of cardiac birth defects. More recent studies have also shown that women who use antidepressants during pregnancy may be more likely to give birth prematurely or give birth to a child with seizures.

Thousands of families whose children were born with birth defects as a result of exposure to antidepressants during pregnancy have filed lawsuits against the manufacturers of these drugs. These lawsuits have alleged that the drug companies knew about the link between antidepressants and birth defects, but failed to properly warn patients about the risk of using these drugs while pregnant.

The first birth defect trial, of over 600 cases filed, resulted in a verdict for the plaintiffs on October 13, 2009, and an award of $2.5 million in compensatory damages for the family of Lyam Kilker, who was born with three cardiac birth defects after his mother took Paxil while pregnant. In 2010, Bloomberg News, citing people familiar with the settlements, reported that GlaxoSmithKline had agreed to pay more than $1 billion to resolve more than 800 birth-defect cases related to Paxil.

At Heygood, Orr & Pearson, we believe that when a drug company sells a drug or medical device that is dangerous and unsafe, they should be held responsible for the damage. We have spent years holding drug companies and medical device manufacturers responsible for the injuries and deaths caused by their reckless conduct.

If you or a loved one used Zoloft, Paxil, Prozac, or other antidepressants during pregnancy and gave birth to a child with heart defects or other birth defects, you may be eligible to file a lawsuit. For a free consultation about your case, contact the lawyers at Heygood, Orr & Pearson by calling toll-free at 1-877-446-9001, or by filling out our free online case evaluation form.