Lexapro (escitalopram) is a medication used to treat depression and generalized anxiety disorder. Similar to other antidepressants like Paxil and Zoloft, Lexapro is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI). Drugs in this classification are designed to help an individual maintain mental balance by increasing the levels of naturally occurring serotonin in the brain.
Lexapro was introduced to the market by Forest Laboratories in 2002 and it ranks among the most widely prescribed antidepressants in the United States, with annual sales estimated at $2.3 billion in 2008.
Lexapro has been controversial for several reasons. Many critics allege that Lexapro’s formulation is essentially the same as citalopram, with only minor chemical differences to ensure a long and profitable patent life. Forest Laboratories has also come under fire for its unusually aggressive marketing of Lexapro to doctors and patients. Several whistleblowers alleged that Forest was illegally marketing its drug to children. Additionally, a growing number of plaintiffs nationwide have linked the drug to Lexapro birth defects.
Lexapro side effects
The side effects attributed to Lexapro are typical of other SSRI side effects, and include sexual dysfunction, muscle weakness, psychological disturbances (mania and suicidal thoughts), increased risk of heart attack in certain patients, and seizures.
The medication has also been linked to a dangerous condition known as serotonin syndrome, and male patients can suffer prolonged and painful erections due to Lexapro that can cause permanent damage.
Use of the drug by pregnant women can cause Lexapro birth defects. Many patients who have been injured by their use of Lexapro have sought compensation from Forest Laboratories through a Lexapro lawsuit.
Lexapro birth defects
Clinical evidence suggests that use of Lexapro during pregnancy can cause significant harm to an unborn baby, including Lexapro birth defects. Babies born to mothers who used Lexapro during the last three months of pregnancy have been known to suffer withdrawal, and may experience seizures and difficulty breathing and feeding. Lexapro passes into breast milk and may have an adverse effect on a nursing newborn.
Potential Lexapro birth defects include the following:
- Cardiac malformations
- Persistent Pulmonary Hypertension of the Newborn (Lexapro PPHN)
- Limb malformations
- Down’s syndrome
- Club foot
- Spina Bifida
- Cleft lip and/or cleft palate
The FDA has warned that use of SSRI medications like Lexapro during pregnancy increases the risk of Lexapro PPHN and serious congenital birth defects.
SSRI lawsuits include Lexapro lawsuit actions
Many families injured by Lexapro birth defects have filed an individual Lexapro lawsuit. In February of 2012, three mothers filed suit in a Missouri state court, alleging their children developed Lexapro birth defects while in the womb.
Currently, Lexapro lawsuit filings have not coalesced into a mass tort or multidistrict litigation in any jurisdiction. The pattern of other SSRI lawsuits, such as those concerning Paxil, Zoloft, and Prozac, suggest that such a Lexapro lawsuit consolidation may occur in the future.