Paxil class action lawsuit filed on behalf of Canadian children with antidepressant birth defects

by Jim Orr

A class action lawsuit is going forward on behalf of “any person in Canada, born with cardiovascular defects, to women who ingested Paxil while pregnant, and the mothers of those persons.” Paxil is one of a group of drugs called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors or SSRIs. SSRIs are sold under a number of product names including Paxil, Prozac, Zoloft and Lexapro. SSRIs are mainly prescribed to women to treat depression. In 2008, a Scientific American article reported that 13.4 percent of all pregnant women in the US take an antidepressant during pregnancy.

The lead plaintiff in the Canadian class action is Faith Gibson, whose daughter Meah, now 7 years old, was born with a hole in her heart. Like many women, Gibson was already using Paxil when she became pregnant. Gibson’s doctor had prescribed Paxil, otherwise known as paroxetine, for anxiety. She continued taking the drug during her pregnancy because she was told it would have no negative consequences on her baby.

An evolving body of scientific evidence links SSRIs to congenital heart defects, life-threatening pulmonary hypertension in newborns, miscarriages, autism and other birth defects. Lawyers in the Canadian case claim that the drug companies were aware of animal studies as early as the early 1970’s showing the same sort of defects in rats.

In December 2005, the FDA issued an alert in the United States about the risk of birth defects from Paxil, after studies showed the drug could increase the risk of the heart defects when taken during the first three months of pregnancy. At that time, the agency also required GlaxoSmithKline to update the warning label in this country to include information about the pregnancy risks with Paxil.

GlaxoSmithKline has faced hundreds of Paxil lawsuits in the United States, brought on behalf of children who suffered various birth defects and malformations, such as persistent pulmonary hypertension in newborns (PPHN) and other health problems. The lawsuits have alleged that Glaxo purposefully hid test results that would have revealed the risks associated with use of Paxil during pregnancy and misled doctors.

In October 2009, a Pennsylvania jury awarded the family of a three year old child $2.5 million in compensation for birth defects from Paxil, following the first trial in the country. In 2010, it was reported that GlaxoSmithKline agreed to pay more than $1 billion to settle other Paxil birth defect lawsuits.

A study published last year in the journal Human Reproduction found that women who use SSRIs—drugs as Zoloft, Paxil, Prozac, Celexa, and Lexapro—during pregnancy are more likely to suffer a miscarriage, give birth prematurely, or give birth to a child with autism.

A study published in the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology found that women who use antidepressants during pregnancy may be more likely to give birth prematurely. The study found that women who filled more than one antidepressant prescription during their second trimester of pregnancy gave birth to their child four to five days earlier on average. Researchers found that for every antidepressant prescription that a woman filled during her second trimester, the risk of giving birth prematurely doubled. The study also found that children whose mothers used an SSRIs during the third trimester of pregnancy were more likely to have a seizure.

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.

by Jim Orr

Jim Orr is a licensed attorney and a partner at HO&P focusing on business and personal injury litigation. Jim was selected multiple times to the Super Lawyers List and has tried 70+ cases to verdict.