Depression is a common and serious medical condition. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,1 depression affects around 1 in 10 American adults. Depression is a mental illness that has a serious impact on the lives of patients and their families. Doctors prescribe a number of different medicines, or antidepressants, for patients with depression. These can effectively treat the symptoms, but there are also potential side effects.
How doctors treat depression
Doctors can prescribe a number of different drugs to treat the symptoms of major depressive disorder. A selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor2 (or SSRI) is a specific type of antidepressant. SSRIs are often the first type of medicine that doctors prescribe, as they can effectively treat the symptoms of moderate to severe depression for a wide range of patients. Common SSRIs include:
- Citalopram (brand name Celexa®)
- Escitalopram (brand name Lexapro®)
- Fluoxetine (brand names Prozac® and Sarafem®)
- Fluvoxamine (brand name Luvox®)
- Paroxetine (brand name Paxil®)
- Sertraline (brand name Zoloft®)
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Lexapro3 (active ingredient escitalopram oxalate) for the treatment of depression in 2002. Since then, Lexapro patients have experienced a number of side effects. Some of these complications can be very serious.
Common Lexapro risks and side effects
Like most medicines, there are a number of potential side effects4 that Lexapro patients may encounter. These include headache, nausea, insomnia, and dry mouth. Some Lexapro patients experience weight gain, loss of appetite, and a tingling feeling in the arms, legs, or feet. In most cases, these side effects subside or disappear as the body adjusts to the drug, with no lasting complications. There are other Lexapro risks, however, that may have more serious implications.
Risk of increased suicidal thoughts
Some Lexapro patients suffer serious injuries and complications from the medicine. These can have a lasting effect on the patient’s life or may even be life-threatening. Clinical trials of antidepressants in young people and adolescents show that there is an increased risk of suicidal thoughts in this age group. In 2004, the FDA issued a public warning5 about the prescription of SSRIs in adolescents and children. The FDA later revised the warning to include patients up to age 25. Patients normally see the increased risk during the first one to two months of treatment.
Lexapro and birth defects
The FDA categorizes Lexapro as a category C medication during pregnancy. This means that studies in animals have shown that there may be an adverse effect on the unborn fetus. The FDA advises pregnant mothers against taking Lexapro. Studies show that mothers taking Lexapro after the 20th week of pregnancy were six times more likely to see a birth defect (persistent pulmonary hypertension) in their baby.
If you or a family member has suffered a complication arising from the use of Lexapro, you may be able to file a lawsuit against the manufacturer of the drug. You should contact an attorney as soon as possible for further advice.