Effexor (chemical name venlafaxine) is one of the most widely prescribed antidepressants in the United States, with approximately 17 million prescriptions issued every year. Once thought to be relatively safe way to treat depression and anxiety with low risk of side effects, recent research shows that use of the drug by pregnant women and women of child-bearing age may cause major birth defects. Effexor is a serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (SNRI) which treats anxiety and depression by altering brain chemistry.
While Effexor has been on the market for more than two decades, evidence has recently come to light that Wyeth Pharmaceuticals, the drug’s manufacturer, marketed Effexor as safe for use by pregnant women despite knowing that its use could cause birth defects. Wyeth is now a subsidiary of pharmaceutical giant Pfizer.
Early Studies Show Links between Effexor and Birth Defects in Pregnant Women
Animal studies have shown that Effexor poses a risk to human fetuses. The FDA has categorized Effexor as a Pregnancy Category C Drug, meaning that it could potentially harm a fetus, particularly if used during the third trimester. Women are strongly cautioned about taking the drug while pregnant today, however, historically this was not the case, and moreover, drug makers backing Effexor encouraged illegal off label use of the drug in contraindicated patient populations, including minors and pregnant women.
What Birth Defects Does Effexor Cause, According to the FDA?
Children born to women who take Effexor during pregnancy may suffer from abdominal, heart, and lung defects. Other documented conditions include spina bifida, club feet, and birth defects involving skull formation. Some parents whose children were born with these birth defects have already filed suit against Wyeth under a theory of product liability.
- In 2012, two of the first Effexor lawsuits were filed in Pennsylvania on behalf of two children, Alvia Adamczyk and Lilypearl Demastus. The mothers of the two children took Effexor while pregnant. The resulting birth defects were devastating to their families.
- Alvia was born with hypoplastic left heart syndrome, a heart valve defect that causes problems with breathing and circulation.
- Lilypearl suffered from craniosynostosis, a premature fusing of skull bones that puts pressure on the brain and prevents it from properly forming. Both conditions are extremely rare and life-threatening. The conditions required surgery to correct.
In their lawsuits, the mothers of both children stated that they were not warned of the dangers of Effexor before or during pregnancy and that they would not have taken Effexor while pregnant if doctors had informed them of the possibilities of birth defects. At the time, Effexor carried no warning label about possible birth defects. The women allege that Wyeth knew about the risks Effexor posed to pregnant women but kept the information hidden from doctors and patients.
Many other Effexor lawsuits involving birth defects have been filed against Wyeth since the initial Pennsylvania claims. And patients and former users of Effexor are encouraged to consult directly with legal counsel about their individual legal options as additional lawsuits involving Effexor causing birth defects move forward.
What Damages Awards Are Permissible in Effexor Lawsuits?
A successful lawsuit against a drug manufacturer can force the company to pay for medical bills and lost wages for a child with birth defects. A family may also be awarded damages for pain and suffering, as well as for punitive damages if a manufacturer covered up evidence of the dangers of a drug. Such suits can drag on for years as attorneys seek to uncover information about what sort of risks a manufacturer was aware of. Medical experts also need to be consulted about the nature of these drugs and how the medical problems they can cause. Because of the complicated nature of such cases, filing a legal claim against a drug maker is best handled by attorneys with experience in the field of pharmaceutical litigation.
Statutes of Limitations in the State of Texas Regarding Effexor
Effexor lawsuits proceed under the theory of products liability, which requires manufacturers to provide safe products to the public, or at least make consumers aware of possible risks from correct use of the product. The statutes of limitation for a products liability case varies from two (2) to six (6) years depending on the state. While most states have statutes of limitation of two (2) or three (3) years, there are almost certainly are other procedural considerations that may add an additional layer of urgency to filings a viable claims case.
In state of Texas, the statute of limitations requires that an action must be brought within two years of when the injury occurred in a product liability or defective drug claims case. Typically, the statute of limitations will begin running from the date of birth of the child, but again, this is highly contingent upon case specific factors relating to the date of reasonable discovery of harm in a birth injury claims case related to Effexor.