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Paxil and ASD / VSD (Heart Birth Defects)

May 16, 2008

Paxil Heart Birth Defects (ASD / VSD)

Keywords:  Paxil ASD Lawyer VSD Heart Lawsuit Birth Defects

The lawyers and attorneys at our firm are currently offering free case evaluations to families whose children were born with heart defects, specifically Atrial Septal Defects (ASD) and Ventricular Septal Defects (VSD), due to their mother's use of Paxil while pregnant.  While several studies have linked the antidepressant Paxil to a number of birth defects, by far the most common problems associated with Paxil use during pregnancy are ASD and VSD.  These heart defects, which involve holes between the heart's pumping chambers, can be devastating, and often babies with these problems must undergo painful surgeries to correct them.  Our Paxil heart defect lawyers will make sure that infants and  families coping with ASD or VSD are compensated for these injuries.


Ventricular Septal Defects

A ventricular septal defect (VSD) is a hole between the right and left pumping chambers of the heart.  VSD is among the most common congenital heart defects, occurring in 0.1 to 0.4 percent of all live births and making up about 20 to 30 percent of congenital heart lesions. VSD is probably one of the most common reasons for referral of an infant to a cardiologist.


Although babies with large VSDs may do very well in the first weeks of life,  such defects eventually become dangerous.  In these cases, VSD will gradually lead to symptoms of congestive heart failure and must be treated.  Medium or moderate VSD is  more challenging to predict. Sometimes babies born with moderate VSD will have problems with congestive heart failure like babies with large VSD. Others will have no problems at all and just need to be watched.


VSD has can have a very characteristic heart murmur, however, a murmur is often not heard at birth, especially in a large VSD. It is only when there is excessive flow across the hole into the lungs that a murmur can be appreciated.  Babies who do have moderate or large VSD with excessive blood flow to the lungs will have signs of congestive heart failure. The most important sign will be the baby's growth.  In older children, lower energy levels compared to other children the same age may be a symptom of VSD.


Babies who have shown some signs of congestive heart failure from VSD will typically be placed on medication, usually a diuretic to help get rid of extra fluid in the lungs. A medication like digoxin might be used to stabilize heart rhythm.  In babies who are failing to thrive because it is too difficult for them to eat, a high calorie formula or fortified breast milk will be added to help the baby grow.   A nasogastric feeding tube may be necessary to deliver the food if a baby is too weak. The point of such treatments is to control the symptoms of heart failure, and  help the baby achieve normal growth.

Hopefully, the VSD will close and no other treatment will be needed. When the symptoms of VSD are hard to control with medicines or there is persistent evidence that the heart is doing extra work, surgical closure of the defect is often recommended.


In September 2005, the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) and GlaxoSmithKline, the maker of Paxil,  alerted doctors about a new study on major birth defects seen in babies born to women who took the antidepressant during the first trimester of pregnancy. In the study of more than 3,500 pregnant women, Paxil was linked to twice as many major birth defects as other antidepressants.  Most of these defects were heart related, and the most common heart problem seen in the study was VSD.  At that time, the label of Paxil was modified to include information on this study.


The Paxil birth defect lawyers at our firm know that VSD can take an enormous toll on babies and their families.  The medications and treatments used to stave off heart failure are expensive, and often carry other dangerous side effects.  Surgery is always a painful and traumatic experience for infants. Our Paxil birth defect lawyers will do everything they can to make sure families victimized by this drug get their lives back on track.


Atrial Septal Defects

An atrial septal defect (ASD) is a hole in the wall between the two upper chambers of the heart.   In some cases, the hole may close on its own, but often infants with ASD must undergo surgery to correct the problem.  While ASD is sometimes diagnosed at birth, it is not unusual for the defect to be discovered later in life.  An adult who has had an undetected atrial septal defect for decades may have a shortened life span from heart failure or high blood pressure in the lungs.


In December 2005, the FDA again announced that it was requiring GlaxoSmithKline to add additional warnings about Paxil birth defects to the drug's prescribing information.  The FDA took the action because the early results of two more studies showed that women who took Paxil during the first three months of pregnancy were about one and a half to two times as likely to have a baby with a heart defect as women who received other antidepressants or women in the general population.  In addition to VSD, the studies indicated that Paxil use during the early months of pregnancy put infants at risk of ASD. In addition to the label change, the FDA also moved Paxil to another pregnancy category.  The FDA had previously classified the Paxil birth defect  risk as Category C (Risk of Fetal Harm Cannot be Ruled Out).  The new Paxil labeling now classified the birth defect risk as Category D (Positive Evidence of Fetal Risk).


Infants with large atrial septal defects may have a poor appetite, and they often do not grow at a normal rate.  In some cases, they may also exhibit signs of heart failure or arrhythmias.  But very often, symptoms do not appear for years - when a person is in their 20s, 30s, or 40s - after  ASD has done significant damage to the heart and lungs.  Paxil was first approved in 1992, and thousands of pregnant women have taken the drug since then.  Because the symptoms of ASD often take time to appear, our Paxil heart defect lawyers expect many cases of Paxil-related ASD will be diagnosed in adults in the coming years.


The symptoms of long-standing ASD include shortness of breath, fatigue, swelling of legs, feet or abdomen, and heat palpitations.  Large ASDs can cause a range of life-threatening problems if they are not treated.  These include right-sided heart failure, a higher risk of heart attack and stroke, and heart rhythm abnormalities. 


In a child, doctors may observe the atrial septal defect for a period of time to see if it closes on its own. If a hole hasn't closed early in childhood, it usually will never close on its own and requires surgery to correct.  For adults and children, surgery involves plugging or patching the abnormal opening between the atria. Doctors can do this through two methods: open heart surgery or cardiac catheterization.  For children, both procedures involve a great deal of trauma and pain.  Our Paxil injury lawyers want to make sure that GlaxoSmithKline is held accountable for the pain and suffering inflicted on Paxil birth defect victims.


Legal Help for Victims of Paxil-related ASD or VSD

If you or someone you know used Paxil during pregnancy and gave birth to a child with ASD, VSD or other heart defects, you have valuable legal rights.  Please fill out our online form or call 1-800-YOURLAWYER (1-800-968-7529) to discuss your case with an experienced Paxil birth defect lawyer.







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