Celexa (citalopram) and Lexapro (escitalopram) are antidepressants in the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) class of medications. SSRIs have gained widespread popularity in the treatment of depression and anxiety disorders. Celexa was originally developed by the pharmaceutical company H. Lundbeck, and in the U.S. is manufactured by Forest Laboratories. Lexapro was developed by both Lundbeck and Forest Laboratories.
Lexapro is also marketed as Seroplex, Cipralex, and Esertia; Celexa is also marketed under the brand names Cipram, Cipramil, Recital, Dalsan, Sepram, Emocal, Seropram, Cital and Citox.
Both Lexapro and Celexa are linked to a higher risk of birth defects such as congenital heart defects, omphalocele (abdominal wall defects), craniosynostosis (premature fusion of the skull), and PPHN (Persistent Pulmonary Hypertension of the Newborn). PPHN is a serious lung condition which prevents babies from getting enough oxygen in their bloodstream; 10-20% of babies born with this condition do not survive. SSRIs like Celexa can cause PPHN by increasing the pressure in the blood vessels that run to the baby's lungs, causing the blood to bypass the lungs.
Studies have shown that mothers who took SSRIs during pregnancy have a higher risk of delivering babies with serious birth defects. A 2006 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that when pregnant women used SSRIs after the 20th week of pregnancy, the risk of delivering babies with PPHN increased sixfold - as high as 12 out of 1,000 births. A study published in the same journal in 2007 also found that pregnant women who used SSRIs in the first trimester were twice as likely to have babies with birth defects such as anal atresia, clubfoot, and limb defects.
Additionally, a study published in the February 2004 issue of Pediatrics found that babies exposed to SSRIs in the womb were more likely to have unusual heart rhythms, interfered neurological development, decreased alertness and abnormal sleeping patterns. Celexa is also associated with Shone's Complex, a type of heart disease that obstructs blood flow from the heart to the body.
Studies have linked Lexapro to an increased risk of heart-related birth defects, including hypoplastic left heart syndrome (where the left side of the heart fails to develop properly), coarction of the aorta (an overly narrow aorta) and septal defect (hole in the heart wall). These heart conditions often require invasive surgery to treat and some are potentially fatal. Using Lexapro during pregnancy may also lead to an increased risk of delivering infants with cleft lip, cleft palate and club foot.
General information on birth defects
Teratogens, substances that cause birth defects, are present in some types of prescription and over-the-counter medications. When used during pregnancy, teratogens can lead to birth defects by causing damage to the fetus, interfering with the functioning of the placenta, or by causing premature contractions that can injure the fetus. SSRIs are not highly teratogenic, but studies have shown a link between SSRIs and an increased risk of birth defects.
A fetus is most susceptible to teratogenic drugs during the first trimester, but some drugs can adversely affect the fetus any time during the pregnancy.
To indicate the birth defect risk of various drugs, the FDA classifies drugs into pregnancy categories according to the level of harm to the fetus:
- Category A - No evidence of risk to the fetus in sufficient, well-controlled studies
- Category B - Animal studies have been conducted and show no evidence of birth
- defect risk; however, no sufficient and well-controlled human studies exist.
- Category C - Animal studies show a possible risk to the fetus, but the benefits of this
- drug may outweigh the risk.
- Category D - There is positive evidence of risk to the fetus, but use of this drug may
- be justified in some cases.
- Category X - Positive evidence of risk to the fetus. Women who are or may become
- pregnant should avoid this drug.
- Category N - Not yet classified.
If your child was born with birth defects that may have resulted from using Celexa, Lexapro or other SSRIs, you may be entitled to compensation. The experienced attorneys at Oshman & Mirisola, LLP have provided quality legal representation for clients in birth defect lawsuits for over 35 years. Call us at (800) 400-8182 or submit our online Contact Us form for a free, no-obligation consultation.