Lexapro Birth Defect Cases Continue on the Rise


Though seemingly absent from the litigation landscape in recent months, cases involving birth defects and the use of the drug Lexapro are likely to return to center stage when the consolidated Lexapro/Celexa products liability trial begins in May 2014.

Prescribed to patients suffering from depression, Lexapro is an SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor) antidepressant. The use of this class of drugs is widespread, with some studies suggesting that one out of every five people in the United States currently has a prescription for such medications. While almost all prescription drugs bring the risk of certain side effects, some are more serious than others. The Lexapro litigation involves allegations that the drug is characterized by dangerous side effects that can harm unborn children.

Some of the birth defects the plaintiffs in these cases have attributed to Lexapro use by pregnant mothers are things such as spina bifida, club foot, hypoplastic left heart syndrome, anencephaly, omphalocele and craniosynostosis. Pulmonary hypertention in affected newborns has also been alleged to be due to the mothers’ use of Lexapro.

Debate has been hearty on the topic of whether SSRIs such as Lexapro ought to be given to expectant mothers in the first place. While the risk of harm to their unborn children from the drugs has always been thought to be small, it has never been declared to be nonexistent. On the other hand, the risks of untreated depression in the mother can be significant, and the postpartum depression that may ultimately develop can have extremely adverse impacts on young babies as well.

Plaintiffs in this litigation argue that if they had been made fully aware of the risks involved in taking these drugs while pregnant, they would have abstained and their babies would have been spared the injuries they eventually suffered.

Slated to begin in May of next year in the Missouri Judicial Circuit 19 of Cole County, the first of the consolidated Lexapro cases may serve as a barometer of similar litigation yet to come. Plaintiffs interested in pursuing claims against the makers of Lexapro for failing to warm about the dangers of serious birth defects are continuing to build cases in numerous other jurisdictions. The direction of those cases may be significantly shaped by what happens in Missouri beginning next year.


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