Like most other Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRI), Lexapro can produce severe side effects in some patients who take the drug. The primary ingredient, escitalopram, is typically used to treat depression or anxiety, but the drug’s manufacturer, Forest Labs, has aggressively marketed the medication to doctors. As a result, many doctors have prescribed the medication to people inappropriately, including writing prescriptions for teenagers and children. This is particularly troublesome given the range of complications that SSRIs can cause.

Lexapro Side Effects

Though there are many SSRI medications available on the market, each only has minor differences.  They all generally function the same way. Like other drugs in this class, Lexapro blocks the reuptake of serotonin by neurons in the brain. This causes the concentration of serotonin to remain elevated in the brain while the medication is active. Serotonin is a complex neurotransmitter that can alter many functions in the body, some of which are related to mood and behavior. Current research shows that while SSRIs can be a primary choice of treatment in patients with severe depression, they are less efficacious at mitigating mild to moderate depression.

Adverse complications involving mood or mental disturbance are linked to nearly all SSRIs, Lexapro included. These side effects include confusion, aggression, depersonalization, suicide ideation, and suicidal behavior. Escitalopram is also responsible for a number of birth defects and developmental disorders. As a result, the FDA has placed escitalopram in “Pregnancy Category C”, which is typically reserved for drugs that have demonstrated risks to animal fetuses. Doctors are generally reluctant to prescribe these medications to pregnant women because the benefits often don’t outweigh the risks, however aggressive marketing is likely responsible for some doctors prescribing the drug to pregnant women.

The most common birth defects associated with escitalopram include persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn (a fatal lung disorder), clubfoot, craniosynostosis (increasing skull pressure and misshapen head), pulmonary atresia (severe heart disorder that can cause sudden death), spina bifida (can cause paralysis, curved spine or other physical abnormalities), and various heart defects. Lexapro birth side effects may also include undescended testes, renal problems, cleft lip or palate, hypospadias (poor development of the male urethra), and autism. These defects are typically permanent and can have a profound effect on a person’s quality of life. They are usually expensive to treat and require ongoing therapy for the life of the child. In many cases, these deformities can greatly reduce life expectancy.

Any woman who has taken escitalopram while pregnant and given birth to a child with a birth defect should consider speaking to a personal injury attorney with experience in drug injuries. A skilled lawyer can help a victim file a claim against Forest Labs, assess the damages caused by the drug, and negotiate a settlement with the company.