One of the most popular selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) medications ever created, Prozac, can cause serious side effects that may result in permanent disabilities. The primary ingredient in the drug, fluoxetine, is considered to be the most stimulating SSRI available, and has been prescribed to millions of patients in the country. However, like many SSRIs, there are many adverse complications to be aware of, including permanent and possibly fatal birth defects.
All SSRIs work the same on the most basic level. SSRIs work by suppressing the brain’s natural tendency to absorb neurotransmitters like serotonin over time. Serotonin is an extremely important neurotransmitter in the body, and among its functions it is believed to be important in elevating mood. By blocking the reuptake of serotonin, fluoxetine maintains higher concentrations of the neurotransmitter and keeps the mood elevated as a result. Most SSRIs work on different serotonin reuptake receptors, which give them a slightly different pharmaceutical profile from each other.
Prozac can result in side effects that range from minor, transient nausea to Tardive dyskinesia (a permanent motor disorder) and seizures. Because serotonin affects many processes in the body, manipulating its concentration in the brain can alter body function in many ways. Decreased libido, possibly fatal heart fibrillations, hair loss, urinary retention, muscle spasms, panic attacks, hepatitis and suicidal ideation and attempts are just a few of the complications that can result from the use of fluoxetine.
Among the most serious Prozac side effects, though, are birth defects. The Food and Drug Administration has placed fluoxetine in Pregnancy Category C, which means that the drug has shown serious complications in animal fetuses during testing. While these tests haven’t been completely confirmed in humans, there have been many reports of severe birth complications arising after pregnant women have used the medication. The New England Journal of Medicine released a report in 2006 that showed a six-fold increase in risk of persistent pulmonary hypertension in the newborn, or PPHN. PPHN is a possibly fatal circulatory disorder that prevents normal blood flow into the lungs. This keeps the blood from being oxygenated properly. If not diagnosed and treated immediately, the condition is almost always fatal. Even with treatment, the prognosis may be poor and significantly impact the quality of a child’s life. Fluoxetine is also connected to autism spectrum disorders, septal defects (holes in the walls of the heart, resulting in poor circulation), coarctation of the aorta (aorta too narrow, altering blood flow), craniosynostosis (misshapen skull and increased intracranial pressure), club foot and cleft palate, among others.
These defects will often require surgery or other intensive medical intervention to save the child’s life or improve their quality of life. In many cases, a child may suffer from permanent developmental problems even with thorough medical attention.
Anyone who has taken fluoxetine and suffered from these complications should consider speaking to a drug injury lawyer. Compensation can help a family pay for medical treatment and ongoing medical care for permanent disabilities. An expert attorney may be able to help secure the best possible outcome for a family that decides to file a claim.