Many people have filed lawsuits against Pfizer, the drug company that manufactures and sells Effexor. Effexor lawsuits have been on the rise because of the potential for causing birth defects in the children of women who take this antidepressant while pregnant. Effexor was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1993, but since then it has been linked to serious birth defects.
Some women experience depression during pregnancy, and it can be difficult to choose to use antidepressants when they come with the risks of birth defects. Women who felt they weren’t adequately warned about those risks are now suing Pfizer. Other lawsuits have been brought about because Effexor is also linked to an increase in suicidal thoughts in young patients. Parents who lost their children to suicide blame Effexor and Pfizer and are suing for damages.
How Effexor Works
Effexor was first developed by Wyeth, which was eventually bought by Pfizer. Now Pfizer has responsibility for the drug and faces all the lawsuits over the damaging side effects. Effexor, or venlafaxine, is an antidepressant belonging to the SNRI class, which stands for serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor. It works to treat depression by increasing the amount of the neurotransmitters norepinephrine and serotonin in the brain.
These neurotransmitters are associated with mood, which is why SNRIs are effective in treating depression. Effexor can also be used to treat generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and social anxiety disorder. Off-label, doctors may prescribe it for sleep disorders and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Doctors may prescribe the drug at their discretion to children under age 18, but there are risks that must be weighed against the potential benefits.
Effexor causes side effects in some people who take it, but for most people these are mild or go away over time. They include digestive issues like diarrhea, stomach pain, gas, heart burn, constipation, or vomiting. Other side effects are less common and include drowsiness, weakness, nightmares, headaches, hot flashes, shaking, numbness, and tingling. Effexor may also cause withdrawal symptoms if use is discontinued too suddenly.
These side effects are not too serious, although they may be uncomfortable. What is more of a concern with Effexor, and what has led to a number of lawsuits against Pfizer, are the more serious possible effects of this drug. They include birth defects in babies born to women who used the medication during pregnancy, miscarriages and suicide in teens and children taking it. If you have experienced any of these serious complications from Effexor, you may have a viable lawsuit.
Effexor Lawsuits and Birth Defects
Although Effexor has been on the market and approved to treat depression since 1993, it wasn’t until 2006 that the FDA issued a warning about the potential for birth defects. The warning was issued for all SNRI antidepressants and was based on the results of a study. That study found that for women taking an SNRI like Effexor past the 20th week of pregnancy were significantly more likely to have children born with defects or to have other issues like miscarriages.
One of the potential problems Effexor can cause is a condition called persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn, or PPHN. The women taking an SNRI in the study were six times more likely to have a child born with PPHN. This particular type of high blood pressure makes it hard for a baby to adapt outside of the womb and it can cause serious organ damage and other complications. It can be fatal for some infants.
Women taking Effexor during pregnancy were also found to have a much greater risk of having a miscarriage or of having a child born with birth defects. The defects seen in children linked to SNRIs include heart murmurs and other heart defects, spina bifida, club foot, pulmonary stenosis, omphalocele, lung defects, and craniosynostosis.
Plaintiffs in Effexor lawsuits have claimed that the company did not do everything it could to warn patients about the risks of birth defects. Wyeth and Pfizer may even have known about the risks earlier and marketed the drug as safe and effective in spite of those risks. One lawsuit made this claim in 2012 and blamed Pfizer for the birth defects in the children of two individuals. These women claimed that if they had known about the risks they would have sought different treatments for depression.
Effexor and other SNRIs have also been implicated in suicides among younger patients. As with the risk of birth defects, the warning about suicidal thoughts and action didn’t come out until many years after Effexor came out on the market. For reasons that are not understood, SNRIs and other antidepressants seem to increase suicidal thinking in some patients under the age of 24.
For this reason, Effexor is not approved for use in children and teenagers, but doctors may prescribe it to a young patient if it is the best option. Some drug companies have come under fire for promoting antidepressants for teens and children, in spite of the known risks. This kind of off-label marketing is both illegal and unethical and has led to a number of lawsuits.
Young patients who attempted or committed suicide while on Effexor are survived by families coping with this devastating loss. An Effexor lawsuit can be a way for these families to feel like they are being heard and that the companies responsible will face punishment for wrongdoing. For these families, lawsuits aren’t really about the money, but settlements into the millions are possible.
Filing an Effexor Lawsuit
If you were harmed by Effexor, either because of birth defects, a miscarriage, PPHN, or suicide, you have rights and those include the right to seek compensation. With a successful lawsuit and settlement you may be able to get the money you need to pay expensive medical bills and to compensate for the wages you may have lost while you stayed home from work caring for a baby or child or recovering from your own health problems related to the drug.
Compensation from a lawsuit can also cover your pain and suffering and even the loss of relationships triggered by the problems the drug caused. Having a child with a debilitating birth defect is something that can impact the rest of your life. Losing a child to suicide can be equally devastating or even more so. If you feel that Pfizer or Wyeth were negligent in the medical problems you have suffered because of Effexor, talk to a lawyer. A professional can help you decide if you have a strong case and the steps you need to take to fight for your compensation.