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Effexor Birth Defect PPHN FAQ

What is Effexor?

Effexor, known generically as venlafaxine, is an antidepressant in a class of drugs known as SNRIs (serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors). Effexor is made by Wyeth Pharmaceuticals.

What is an SNRI and how is it different from an SSRI?

An SNRI is a serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor. It works by affecting levels of both serotonin and norepinephrine in the patient's brain. An SSRI is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor, which only affects levels of serotonin in the patient's brain.

Many studies of SSRIs include SNRIs without making a distinction between the two. For example, studies of SSRIs might include results for Effexor. This is because the two types of medication are very similar in that they both affect serotonin levels. The SNRI, however, also affects norepinephrine levels.

Why are there Effexor lawsuits?

Effexor is allegedly linked to an increased risk of birth defects when babies are exposed to the antidepressant prior to birth. These Effexor birth defects include congenital heart defects, persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn, cardiac malformations, brain and spinal cord defects, club foot, abnormal skull shape, anal atresia (complete or partial closure of the anus), defects in the abdominal wall and cleft lip and cleft palate.

What does the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) say about Effexor? Has there been an Effexor warning?

Effexor is classified as US FDA pregnancy category C, which means that there could be a risk to the unborn baby if exposed to Effexor prior to birth. Effexor's medication guide states that there are no adequate and well-controlled studies in pregnant women and that Effexor, "should be used during pregnancy only if clearly needed."

What is Effexor PPHN?

PPHN, or persistent pulmonary hypertension, is a potential Effexor side effect for a newborn. PPHN is a lung disorder in which the patient's arteries are severely restricted, causing blood pressure in the pulmonary artery to rise to dangerous levels. This results in restricted blood flow and oxygen levels in the blood.

In newborn babies with PPHN (persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn), the ductus arteriosis (the means by which blood was sent back to the heart while in the womb) does not close properly, preventing blood flow from entering the lungs. If the blood does not enter the lungs it returns to the heart with low oxygen levels, stressing the infant's organs.

Symptoms of PPHN include rapid breath, rapid heart rate and difficulty breathing. Although PPHN is not always fatal, it can be and can also cause shock, heart failure, kidney failure and seizures.

What are some other Effexor side effects?

Effexor carries a black box warning about the risk of suicidal thinking and behavior in short-term studies on children with Major Depressive Disorder and other psychiatric disorders. Furthermore, infants who were exposed to Effexor prior to birth could suffer withdrawal symptoms including agitation, insomnia and difficulty feeding.

What should I do if I took Effexor while pregnant and my infant was born with birth defects?

If your child was born with Effexor-related birth defects, you should contact an Effexor attorney --meaning a lawyer who specializes in Effexor lawsuits--to discuss your legal options.

What should I do if I am taking Effexor and am pregnant or planning on becoming pregnant?

You should speak to a doctor about your options. Do not discontinue medication without first speaking to a medical professional. Effexor's medication guide states that you should speak with a doctor if you are pregnant or planning on becoming pregnant while taking Effexor.
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Last updated on Apr-27-10

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