Observes Alcohol- And Drug-Related Birth Defects Week In Interview On Alleged SSRI Birth Defect Risks

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In observance of the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD) Alcohol and Drug-Related Birth Defects Awareness Week, reached out to Dr. Anick Bérard, director of the medications and pregnancy unit at Ste-Justine University Hospital, and a professor at the pharmacy faculty of the Université de Montréal, to weigh in on the debate regarding SSRI birth defects.

As a trusted legal news and information source, has reported on the alleged connection between certain antidepressants and birth defects since 2006. Additionally, it was as early as December, 2005 that the FDA issued a warning regarding use of at least one SSRI antidepressant--Paxil--during the first trimester of pregnancy; the FDA warning alerted healthcare professionals and patients to the risk of Paxil birth defects--including heart defects in the newborn. Subsequently, in 2009, a jury awarded the parents of a child born with heart defects attributed to his mother's use of Paxil $2.5 million after an SSRI birth defect lawsuit had been filed (Kilker v. SmithKline Beecham Corp. dba GlaxoSmithKline, 2007-001813, Court of Common Pleas, Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania (Philadelphia)).

With that as a backdrop, in observance of NCADD Alcohol- and Drug-Related Birth Defects Week, May 12-18, 2013, spoke with Dr. Anick Bérard, director of the medications and pregnancy unit at Ste-Justine University Hospital, and a professor at the pharmacy faculty of the Université de Montréal, for an update on the alleged concerns over SSRI birth defects.

“Over the past twenty years, we are getting better at identifying the risks of antidepressant use in pregnancy,” says Dr. Anick Bérard. “The cohorts are getting larger, more and more people are being prescribed antidepressants, so we are better at detecting risks.”

According to a 2011 data brief from the National Center for Health Statistics (No. 76, October 2011) SSRI antidepressants were the third most-prescribed medication from 2005 through 2008. What’s more, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, in their "Data and Statistics: Use of Medications in Pregnant Women" report, about 90% of women take at least one medication during pregnancy and 70% take at least one prescription medication; use of selective serotonin-reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) was reported most often among women three months prior to pregnancy or during pregnancy.

This is alarming to Dr. Bérard. “There is a lot of evidence to show that antidepressants are risky to use during pregnancy,” Dr. Bérard says. “The scientific data shows us there is risk of pregnancy induced hypertension for the mother, and for the newborns there is a risk of neonatal withdrawal (withdrawal from the SSRIs) symptoms, spontaneous abortion, heart and other birth defects, prematurity, and possibly autism, and so there is a lot of evidence.”†

According to Dr. Bérard, "The increase in SSRI prescriptions for even mild-to-moderate depression in recent years has created a larger cohort, and an undeniable association between SSRI use and birth defects is emerging."

“The association (between SSRIs and pregnant women) was probably there in the early 1990s,” says Dr. Bérard, “but now we are seeing much larger cohorts of women on SSRIs and we are able to detect an association, so there is a lot of evidence to show that there are SSRI birth defects in these pregnancies.”

"Many GPs will prescribe SSRIs in the absence of specific screening to diagnose, or gauge the level of depression involved." Dr. Bérard told "There is no evidence to support the widely-held view that an SSRI antidepressant will actually succeed in relieving depression."††

In fact, according to a USA Today report,(1/31/13) a class action lawsuit (Plumlee v. Pfizer, Case No. 13-CV-00414-PSG, US District Court for the Northern District of California) was filed earlier this year alleging pharmaceutical company Pfizer marketed its Zoloft antidepressant as a highly effective treatment for depression, while aware the drug’s effectiveness was virtually indistinguishable from that of a sugar pill.

The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD) observes Alcohol and Drug-Related Birth Defects Awareness Week each year in May. While the debate over SSRI antidepressant use and pregnancy rages on, Lawyers& continues to keep its readers up-to-date on the latest legal news and lawsuit information regarding allegations of SSRI birth defects. provides comprehensive legal news and critical information for those affected by once-in-a-lifetime situations involving medical device lawsuits, personal injury, defective products, California Overtime and labor issues or a host of others. Readers seeking legal help can request it by completing a form which is distributed to attorneys specializing in these cases. Trial attorneys utilize the site to keep abreast of hot legal issues and settlements as well as connect with potential clients. Web:

† "Use of SSRIs in Pregnancy Puts Baby at Risk", Cole Petrochko, Staff Writer, MedPage Today, Published: November 01, 2012, Reviewed by Zalman S. Agus, MD; Emeritus Professor, Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania and Dorothy Caputo, MA, BSN, RN, Nurse Planner;; Primary source: Human Reproduction; Source reference: Domar AD, et al "The risks of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor use in infertile women: a review of the impact on fertility, pregnancy, neonatal health, and beyond" Hum Reprod 2012; DOI: 10.1093/humrep/des383.

"Study Links Antidepressant Use and Miscarriage", Time, Alice Park, June 01, 2010,,8599,1992988,00.html

†† "Antidepressants: Do They "Work" or Don't They?", Scientific American, John Kelly, March 02, 2010.

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