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What Impact Will Paxil Lawsuits Have on Potential Effexor Lawsuits?

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Seattle, WAWomen who took Effexor while pregnant and had babies with Effexor birth defects might be watching Paxil litigation with some curiosity. Although no lawsuits alleging serious Effexor side effects, such as Effexor heart defects, have been filed, similar antidepressants have been linked to side effects, including persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn (PPHN) and congenital heart defects.

Effexor is in a class of drugs called serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), which affect the patient by increasing the amount of serotonin and norepinephrine in the patient's brain. Paxil is in a class of drugs known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), which affect only the serotonin levels in the brain and do not act on norepinephrine.

Much research on newer antidepressants has revolved around SSRIs. That research has suggested a link between the use of SSRIs while pregnant and an increased risk of having a baby born with birth defects. Because SNRIs, such as Effexor, affect the levels of serotonin in the patient's brain, they may have similar side effects to SSRIs, meaning drugs such as Effexor may have similar side effects as Paxil.

That is what could make recent Paxil litigation interesting for women who have taken Effexor. Although one Paxil lawsuit was recently thrown out of court by the judge, who found in favor of the defendant, GlaxoSmithKline, maker of Paxil, reportedly agreed to settle approximately 800 Paxil lawsuits.

So far, no Effexor birth defects lawsuits have been filed against Wyeth, maker of Effexor (known generically as venlafaxine). Recent studies, however, suggest a link between the use of the antidepressant and an increased risk of miscarriage. According to a study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, women who took Effexor while pregnant had double the risk of miscarriage over women who did not take antidepressants while pregnant.

Other reported side effects of Effexor include an increased risk of birth defects, including persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn and congenital heart defects, developmental delays and withdrawal symptoms.

Women who are pregnant or planning on becoming pregnant and taking Effexor should not discontinue use of the medication without consulting their doctor. Although studies suggest a link between the use of antidepressants while pregnant and increased risk to the fetus, there could also be a link between untreated depression and risks to the fetus.

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