Study suggests link between SSRI antidespressants during pregnancy and autism

by Eric Pearson

Selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are a class of drugs typically used as antidepressants in the treatment of depression, anxiety disorders, and some personality disorders. It is not uncommon for women to take SSRI antidepressants during pregnancy. A study published in August 2014 in the British Journal of Psychiatry is the latest to suggest an association between prenatal SSRI exposure with childhood autism.

The recently published study, entitled “Prenatal exposure to selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors and social responsiveness symptoms of autism: population-based study of young children”, undertook to determine whether intra-uterine SSRI exposure is associated with childhood autistic symptoms in a population-based study.

The study concluded that children prenatally exposed to SSRIs also were at higher risk for developing pervasive developmental problems compared with unexposed children. Children prenatally exposed to SSRIs also had more autistic compared with those exposed to depressive symptoms only.

According to study’s authors, the results suggest an association between prenatal SSRI exposure and autistic traits in children. They suggest that long-term drug safety trials are needed before evidence-based recommendations are possible.

This is not the first study to suggest an association between prenatal exposure to SSRIs and autism and is hardly the first to suggest that use of SSRIs during pregnancy may pose risks for the child. Researchers have found time and again that SSRIs pass through the placenta and impact the development of the fetus in serious ways, elevating the risk of a host of birth defects.

Prozac and Zoloft are among the antidepressants commonly prescribed for women during pregnancy. Both drugs are SSRIs. Such drugs have largely been assigned a “C” grade for safety during pregnancy by the FDA, meaning they have been known to harm animals taking them in large doses, but because researchers cannot ethically test any drug on a human baby, the FDA states that effects on unborn humans remain unproven. The FDA and the drug’s manufacturer do now warn women not to take Paxil during pregnancy.

One of the more serious birth defects being linked to SSRIs is persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn (PPHN). This is a rare problem that affects a newborn’s heart and lungs. Some scientists suggest that taking an SSRI during the second half of pregnancy may significantly increases the risk of a child developing this this condition.

Side Effects Caused By Dangerous Drugs?

When drug companies fail to warn parents about risk of pregnancy complications from prescription drugs such as Topamax, they may be placing children at risk of serious and potentially life-altering birth defects. Despite FDA warnings about the birth defect risk of countless prescription drugs—ranging from SSRI antidepressants such as Paxil, Prozac, Zoloft, Celexa, Effexor, and Lexapro; drugs containing valproate (valproic acid) like Depakote, Depakene, Depacon, and Stavzor; or the acne medication Accutane—thousands of children continue to be harmed each year by preventable complications caused by prescription medications.

Heygood, Orr & Pearson has represented numerous patients in pharmaceutical liability lawsuits after they suffered complications caused by prescription drugs. Our attorneys have tried hundreds of cases to verdict and reached settlements in hundreds more, achieving verdicts and settlements totaling more than $200 million. In the year 2010 alone, Heygood, Orr & Pearson settled personal injury and wrongful death claims totaling more than $50 million on behalf of our clients.

If your child was born with birth defects caused by complications from a prescription medication, you may be entitled to file a lawsuit and receive compensation to help with the costly medical expenses. For more information about your legal rights, contact the lawyers at Heygood, Orr & Pearson by calling toll-free at 1-877-446-9001, or by following the link to our free case evaluation form located on this website.

by Eric Pearson

Eric Pearson is a licensed attorney and a partner at HO&P who handles commercial and personal injury lawsuits. Eric has been selected to the Super Lawyers List, a Thomson Reuters publication.