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Paxil, Prozac Linked to Heart Birth Defects

Nov 25, 2008 | Parker Waichman LLP

Paxil and Prozac, two popular antidepressants, have been linked to heart birth defects by a new study.   According to an article published in the November issue of The British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, the risk for such birth defects was the highest among Prozac users who also smoked during their pregnancy.

For the study,  researchers from Israel, Italy and Germany looked at the pregnancy outcomes of  2,191 women.  Of those, 410 had taken Paxil during their pregnancy, while 314 had taken Prozac.  The remaining 1,467 had no exposure to either antidepressant.

Among the group taking Prozac, the prevalence of major heart birth defects was 2.8%.  It was 2% in the Paxil group and 0.6% in the control group. That means that women who took Prozac during pregnancy were 4.47 times more likely to have a baby with a heart anomaly and women who took Paxil were 2.66 times more likely. There was no increase in other major congenital anomalies, although the study did find that women  taking Prozac or Paxil had babies with slightly lower birth rates than those in the control group.

The study also found that women who smoked more than 10 cigarettes a day  while taking one of the antidepressants were 5.40 times more likely to have a baby with a heart anomaly.  Those smoking less than ten cigarettes a day were 2.75 times more likely to have a baby with a heart birth defect, the study said.

According to the researchers, the risk of heart birth defects was highest among those smokers who took Prozac. “These findings clearly show a significant association between major heart anomalies and taking fluoxetine (Prozac) and smoking during pregnancy,” lead author Professor Asher Ornoy from the Israeli Teratology Information Service in Jerusalem, Israel, told Science Daily.

According to Science Daily, the researchers are urging pregnant women who must use one of the antidepressants to stop smoking if they do so.  They also recommended that those taking Prozac be given a fetal echocardiogram in their second trimester to diagnose possible heart anomalies.

Pregnant women taking either drug should speak to their doctors, but they should not stop their medication unless they are told to do so, Science Daily said.  


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