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New Hope for Family Alleging Effexor Side Effects

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Kamloops, BCThe family of a young boy who died hours after birth has been given new hope that their claim about Effexor side effects will be heard by officials. Although one health authority recently ruled it would not examine claims about Effexor birth defects linked to the newborn's death, a different agency has now said it will examine some claims reportedly linked to the Effexor pregnancy.

According to Kamloops This Week (10/17/11), the family of Matthew Schultz, who died two hours after he was born on February 21, 2009, was told that the perinatal review committee at Royal Inland Hospital, in Kamloops, British Columbia, where Matthew was born, has determined that there is value in exploring the issue of antidepressant use during pregnancy. Specifically, the Schultz family had reportedly asked the hospital to examine its protocols for dealing with newborns who were exposed to antidepressants prior to birth.

The Schultz family has maintained that Matthew's death is linked to his mother's use of Effexor during pregnancy. The perinatal committee has already met and made some recommendations, including that physicians at the hospital be aware of expectant mothers who take antidepressants and recommend they stop taking antidepressants prior to delivery if possible, and that children receive closer watch after birth if they were exposed to antidepressants.

The hospital has said that Matthew's case will be passed on to a regional health authority for review.

The family had requested that the British Columbia Coroners Service order an inquest into Matthew's death, but no inquest was ordered. The Shultz family is also seeking government protocols for monitoring babies who are exposed to prescription drugs.

A coroner's report did not show any anatomic cause of Matthew's death but did mention the possibility that venlafaxine (Effexor) exposure could have contributed to the death.

Concern about antidepressant use during pregnancy could grow with news that the use of antidepressants has increased almost 400 percent since 1988. That information came from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys and was reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (as cited in USA Today; 10/20/11). Furthermore, antidepressant medications are reportedly the most-used type of medication among people ages 18 to 44.

Studies concerning Effexor birth defects in newborns have achieved mixed findings, with some studies reportedly showing an increased risk of side effects in infants and others finding no increase.

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