The use of the antidepressant Effexor by pregnant women has been linked to birth injuries.
Effexor, introduced in 1993, was the first serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (SNRI) antidepressant, as distinguished from the more common selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). The FDA approved the drug for treatment of anxiety and depression, and by 2007 it was the sixth-most-prescribed antidepressant in the U.S., with 17.2 million prescriptions written annually. Wyeth Pharmaceuticals, the drug’s manufacturer, was acquired by Pfizer in 2009. A generic version of the drug, venlafaxine, was approved for sale in 2010.
Studies have linked Effexor to many side effects, ranging from relatively mild effects such as weight gain and fatigue to serious risks such as suicide ideation and birth injuries, when the medication is used by pregnant women.
Birth injuries linked to Effexor include spina bifida, atrial or ventricular septal defects, club foot, heart murmurs and persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn (PPHN). The drug has also been linked to spontaneous miscarriage when used by pregnant women.
Such injuries have led to a number of lawsuits. The first lawsuit over birth injuries allegedly caused by ingesting Effexor was filed in February 2012, with two more lawsuits following the same year. The first lawsuit was filed by a woman who claimed that she ingested Effexor while pregnant and that this caused a fatal heart defect in her daughter. Her daughter was born in February 2010 with a malformed aorta, among other defects. The child died soon after birth. According to the lawsuit, the drug’s manufacturer knew or should have known of the risks and failed to warn consumers.