Lexapro birth defects lawsuit in Michigan alleges antidepressant caused fatal heart defects in newborn

by Michael Heygood

A Michigan woman has filed a lawsuit against Forest Laboratories alleging that the company’s antidepressant Lexapro caused her daughter to develop fatal birth defects. The lawsuit filed by Chandra Shuck alleges that Forest Labs and H. Lundbeck A/S, the inventor of Lexapro, failed to properly warn patients about the increased risks of giving birth to a child with congenital birth defects—including the cardiac defects suffered by Shuck’s daughter—caused by taking the antidepressant while pregnant.

According to the lawsuit, Shuck was prescribed Lexapro to treat her depression and continued to use the drug while she was pregnant. Shuck gave birth to a daughter in April 2005 who was born with multiple heart defects. Although doctors performed four open-heart surgeries on the infant in an attempt to correct these cardiac defects, the baby died two weeks after birth.

The lawsuit against Forest Labs and Lundbeck alleges that the two companies failed to warn patients about the risk of cardiac defects and other abnormalities despite multiple studies about the risks of using the drug during pregnancy and the fact that the drug had never been approved by the FDA for use by pregnant women. The lawsuit also alleges that the two drugmakers promoted Lexapro as “a safe alternative for pregnant women” despite their knowledge of the birth defect risk posed by the antidepressant.

Multiple Studies Warn About Antidepressant Birth Defects Risks

Lexapro is part of a class of antidepressants known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs, which help to prevent symptoms of depression by slowing the rate at which serotonin in the brain is reabsorbed into the body. Other brands of SSRI antidepressants include Zoloft, Paxil, Prozac, Celexa, Effexor, and Pristiq.

Although SSRIs are extremely popular in the U.S.—accounting for billions of dollars in sales each year—several studies have linked antidepressants such as Lexapro to an increased risk of serious and potentially fatal birth defects when taken during pregnancy:

  • In 2006, the Food and Drug Administration warned that women who used SSRI antidepressants during pregnancy were six times more likely to give birth to a child with persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn (PPHN), a serious heart condition that often requires surgical repair.
  • A study published by the New England Journal of Medicine in 2007 found that pregnant women who used SSRIs were more likely to give birth to a child with a number of serious birth defects, including clubfoot, diaphragmatic hernia, limb-reduction defects, anal atresia, neural-tube defects, oral cleft defects such as cleft lip or cleft palate, or pyloric stenosis.
  • A second study published in 2007 known as the National Birth Defects Prevention Study found that women treated with SSRIs during pregnancy had an increased risk of giving birth to a baby with anencephaly, craniosynostosis, and omphalocele.

Birth Defects Lawsuits Filed Over Congenital Heart Defects Cause by Antidepressants

Hundreds of lawsuits and class action cases have already been filed against the makers of SSRI antidepressants such as Lexapro. Despite the wide variety of birth defects that have been linked to the use of antidepressants while pregnant, these lawsuit share one thing in common—the makers of drugs such as Paxil, Prozac, and Zoloft failed to warn women that the drugs they were taking to treat mental health issues could cause serious or fatal birth defects to their unborn child.

At Heygood, Orr & Pearson, we believe that when drugmakers fail to properly warn parents about risk of birth defects and other pregnancy complications from prescription drugs, they should be held responsible for their negligent actions in a court of law. Our law firm has represented patients and their loved ones in numerous lawsuits involving complications caused by prescription drugs.

If your child was born with heart defects or other birth defects caused by the use of SSRI antidepressants or other prescription medications during pregnancy, you may be eligible to file a lawsuit and receive compensation for the harm caused by these drugs. To receive a free consultation about your case and learn more about your legal rights, contact the lawyers at Heygood, Orr & Pearson by calling toll-free at 1-877-446-9001, or by filling out our free case evaluation form located on this website.