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A new Centers for Disease Control study has confirmed a link between two common depression medications and major birth defects.

Published in the British Medical Journal, the paper found an increased risk for anencephaly, several heart defects, and two gastrointestinal abnormalities in women prescribed paroxetine, marketed as the popular anti-depressant Paxil. The chemical active in Prozac was associated with a heart defect and craniosynostosis, in which a baby’s skull fails to fuse properly.

Results Mixed On Link Between Anti-Depressants & Birth Defects

Both drugs, paroxetine and fluoxetine, are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs. Researchers believe the drugs boost the body’s ability to utilize serotonin, a neurotransmitter involved in mood and emotion. A lengthy medical literature has attempted to investigate the link between SSRIs and birth defects, with mixed results.

For its part, the new CDC study also returned mixed results. While two drugs were found to increase the risk for selected birth defects, three other SSRIs seemed to present no risk. The researchers found no link between citalopram, escitalopram or sertraline and congenital abnormalities.

Slone, A Leader In Birth Defect Research, Finds Link Between Zofran & Cleft Palate

The study is the most recent collaboration between the US Centers for Disease Control and Boston University’s Slone Epidemiology Center, a research organization focusing on maternal and fetal health. Slone has gathered data on medication use during pregnancy for over 35 years.

Three years ago, teams at Slone and the CDC found the first evidence that Zofran, America’s most popular morning sickness drug, may cause birth defects. In a paper published in Birth Defects Research, Slone researchers found that women taking Zofran during pregnancy were more than twice as likely to have children with cleft palate.

Hundreds of families have now filed lawsuits against GlaxoSmithKline, Zofran’s manufacturers. The parents say Glaxo knew about its drug’s link to birth defects, but hid the evidence from medical professionals and families. Their cases have been transferred to the US District Court for Massachusetts, where they currently await the commencement of pre-trial proceedings.

Families interested in learning more about the Zofran litigation can find information at

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