Lexapro (escitalopram) is an SSRI-type prescription antidepressant medication approved to treat depression and generalized anxiety disorder, which has also been used for other mental health conditions. It may cause severe or serious side effects, including birth defects , increased suicide risk and other conditions which may result in serious injury or death.
Multiple lawsuits have been filed against Lexapro’s manufacturer, Forest Laboratories and its parent company, Allergan, by women and families of children who were born with birth defects, after the mother used Lexapro during pregnancy. Others may have filed Lexapro lawsuits after a loved one attempted or committed suicide while taking Lexapro.
In these lawsuits, Forest was accused of failure to adequately warn doctors and patients of the risks of Lexapro including suicide and birth defects. The company has settled a number of birth defect and suicide lawsuits as well as settling a class-action lawsuit filed on behalf of users who claimed they were misled in marketing of Lexapro and its sister medication, Celexa.
Lexapro Lawsuit Information
Lexapro (escitalopram) is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressant that may cause a number of serious side effects. Drug maker Forest Laboratories and its parent company, Allergan, has faced multiple Lexapro lawsuits filed by patients or loved ones of those who took Lexapro and experienced serious injury, birth defects or death. Forest has also faced a number of lawsuits for its sister-drug, Celexa.
Lexapro has proven widely effective in the treatment of depression and anxiety disorders and has grown immensely in popularity over the last several years. Numerous lawsuits have been filed against Forest Laboratories, the makers of Lexapro, for the birth defects and dangerous medical conditions that have been linked with the usage of this drug.
Mothers of children born with birth defects have filed numerous lawsuits against Forest Labs for the injuries as well as the failure to alert users of these potential risks. In one case in St. Louis, Missouri, in which three mothers filed Lexapro lawsuits, the mothers argue that if they had been aware of these potential side effects that they would not have taken the medication and would have chosen a safer alternative.
Lexapro Birth Defects
The risk of birth defects may be increased in children of mothers who take Lexapro while pregnant. Lexapro has been classified as Pregnancy Category C by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, indicating that the drug has been shown to cause birth defects in animals but that benefits may outweigh risks in certain circumstances.
Birth defects caused by Lexapro include:
- Persistent Pulmonary Hypertension of Newborns (PPHN) – PPHN is one of the most life-threatening side effects of the birth defects. PPHN affects a newborns heart and lungs by causing difficulty adapting and breathing outside of the womb. Infants born with this condition are often admitted into intensive care and require supported ventilation and heightened supervision.
- Cleft Palette and/or Cleft Lip – Cleft palette occurs when part of the mouth, or front part of the skull does not properly fuse together while in the womb. Cleft palate may leave a gap that can often be surgically corrected but otherwise requires special care and attention. Cleft palates can lead to speech impairment, difficulty breathing and ear infections and hearing problems.
- Heart Defects – The use of any SSRI imposes a heightened risk of heart defects in newborns however, expectant mothers that are prescribed Lexapro are at nearly double the risk of obtaining heart defects including, but not limited to, atrial septal defect, hypoplastic heart syndromes, tetralogy of Fallot and transposition of the great arteries.
- Neural Tube Defects – Fetuses exposed to Lexapro while in the womb are at twice the risk of anencephaly, a neural tube defect. Anencephaly is a fatal disorder characterized by the absence of a large portion of the brain and skull.
Mothers should be aware that Lexapro can travel through the placenta and the use of this drug puts themselves and their unborn child at risk of defect or even death. Expectant mothers should consider their health as well as that of their child and discuss potential risks and benefits with their health care provider.
Lexapro Serious Side Effects
While most medications cause side effects, some of the severe side effects of Lexapro may be serious or even life-threatening. Serious side effects may include:
- Increased Risk of Suicide – Suicidal thoughts may be a risk of depression but Celexa and other SSRIs may increase that risk, particularly when used in teenagers or young adults. Patients and caregivers should take note of worsening mood changes or other behavioral changes such as aggression or violent behavior.
- Heart Effects – People who take Lexapro may experience changes in heart rate and rhythm which may cause dizziness, fainting, chest pain or shortness of breath and may result in a condition known as Torsade de Pointes which can be fatal. Lexapro may also interact with certain medications or medical conditions, making the condition more likely to occur.
- Serotonin Syndrome – A potentially fatal reaction known as Serotonin syndrome may occur when there is an excess of serotonin in the brain. Serotonin syndrome has symptoms of mental function changes including hallucinations, agitation, or coma, cardiac changes such as increases in heart rate and blood pressure, twitching or rigidity of muscles, and high fever.
- Allergic Reaction – Lexapro may cause a severe reaction in people who are allergic to the medication. Allergy to Lexapro may result in rash or itching but it may also result a life-threatening event known as anaphylaxis which results in difficulty breathing and may cause death. Patients with swelling of the tongue, lips or throat should seek immediate emergency help.
Lexapro Lawsuit Claims
Forest Laboratories was found guilty of promoting Lexapro for use in children, even though it had not been approved for that purpose. The company paid a U.S. Department of Justice settlement of over $300 million and also agreed to settle a class action suit filed by people who claimed they were misled by inappropriate marketing.
Many Lexapro lawsuits allege a lack of warning given to patients about the potential dangers of the medication. Research shows that the company may have been aware of the possibility of birth defects but chose to keep this information concealed from the public. Lawsuits filed against Forest for birth defects caused by Lexapro have stated that the women may not have taken the drug if they had been appropriately informed of the risks.
Though Forest has faced hundreds of lawsuits for injuries caused by Lexapro and its sister-drug, Celexa, most of these lawsuits have settled, been dismissed or otherwise resolved. People or family members of those who were injured after taking Lexapro should seek legal advice.