Lexapro Information and Birth Defects

What is Lexapro?

Lexapro (escitalopram) is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressant marketed by Forest Labs. Lexapro was approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of major depressive disorder and generalized anxiety disorder in the summer of 2002. Lexapro shares the same chemical make up with another drug, its predecessor Forest manufactured SSRI antidepressant, Celexa.

Miranda's mother was not aware that taking the SSRI antidepressant during her pregnancy could potentially adversely affect her unborn child. -- Read More

Imagine the molecular configuration below printed off on a piece of paper pressed against a mirror—Celexa is made of both the paper and the mirror image, and Lexapro is just the mirror image. Or imagine two hands pressed together—Celexa is both hands and Lexapro is just the left hand.

Lexapro Molecular Configuration

Lexapro Information on Birth Defects

Scientific studies have shown that taking SSRI antidepressants similar to Lexapro and Celexa during pregnancy can pose serious risks to unborn babies. The FDA has warned about the use of SSRI antidepressants during pregnancy numerous times in the past decade. Still, these potentially dangerous drugs are widely prescribed to pregnant women in the United States.

Initially, the FDA categorized Lexapro, along with other SSRI antidepressants, as pregnancy “category C” medications, which means that animal reproduction studies have indicated elevated risk of adverse events on the animal fetus. In 2005, the FDA released a Public Health Advisory alerting the public of a possible link between the use of certain SSRI antidepressants (similar to Lexapro) during pregnancy and an increased risk of serious heart defects in newborns.

On Sunday, February 19, 2012, Irving Kirsch, an associate director of the Placebo Studies Program at Harvard Medical School, who has been studying placebos for 36 years, told 60 Minutes that the difference between the perceived benefit of a placebo compared with the benefit of an antidepressant is minimal for most people.

In 2006, the FDA warned that Lexapro, along with other SSRI antidepressants, was associated with a higher risk of a life-threatening disorder called persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn (PPHN).

These and other birth defects have been associated with Lexapro and Baum Hedlund and Robinson, Calcagnie & Robinson are investigating the possible connection between Lexapro and other serious and life threatening congenital defects.

Detailed Lexapro Information

Pharmaceutical: Lexapro

Manufacturer: Forest Laboratories

Generic name: escitalopram

Drug Class: Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI)

CAS Number: 128196-01-0

Guidelines:

Escitalopram is used to treat major depression disorder and generalized anxiety disorder. It is administered orally in tablet form. Escitalopram should never be taken with a monoamine oxidase inhibitor (MAOI). Wait two weeks after taking an MAOI before starting escitalopram treatment. Likewise, wait two weeks after ending escitalopram treatment before taking an MAOI.

Contraindications:

  • Concomitant use of pimozide is contraindicated.
  • The drug is also contraindicated to patients with hypersensitivity to escitalopram.
  • Taking an MAOI during escitalopram treatment may result in serotonin syndrome.

Adverse outcomes:

  • nausea
  • sleepiness
  • weakness
  • dizziness
  • sweating
  • anxiety
  • insomnia
  • sexual dysfunction
  • shakiness
  • constipation
  • dry mouth and loss of appetite
  • abnormal bleeding
  • seizures or convulsions
  • changes in weight
  • low sodium in the blood

Serious Adverse Outcome:

Suicide and serotonin syndrome

Warnings:

  • Do not take escitalopram if you are allergic to the active or inactive ingredients in escitalopram.
  • Do not take escitalopram if you are currently taking an MAOI.
  • Wait two weeks after ending an MAOI before starting escitalopram treatment.

Medical studies:

New England Journal of Medicine Study:

First-Trimester Use of Selective Serotonin-Reuptake Inhibitors and the Risk of Birth Defects.

Pregnancy Category:

Escitalopram is a Pregnancy Category C drug. It has not been studied in pregnant women. However, animal studies have demonstrated an increased risk to a fetus if the drug is taken during pregnancy.