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Michael Monheit
Michael Monheit
Attorney • (215) 840-6573

Wellbutrin Heart Defect Risks

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The concept of a vicious cycle is often thrown around idiomatically to describe situations in which solutions create even more problems. In medical cases, cures for a patient’s symptoms often produce more unwelcome side effects that cause doctors to turn in circles trying to decide how best to treat the patient. For example, pregnancy can negatively affect women’s blood pressure, neurology, psychological health, and motor skills. Doctors may wish to treat patients in order to prevent these symptoms from complicating the pregnancy. However, in many cases, the drugs available produce additional side effects that can do more harm than good. One instance is the use of antidepressants. Of late, a study has shown that the prescription medication, Wellbutrin, may be associated with heart defects in infants when used by mothers during pregnancy.

Although the extent and nature of the risks are not fully clear, the research shows that there is a possible link between the Wellbutrin and heart defects at birth. Wellbutrin is one brand name for the drug, bupropion. Bupropion is commonly prescribed to help patients stop smoking and to help those suffering from depression. Hormones in pregnancy can affect serotonin levels in the brain. Seratonin is linked to mood, appetite, and brain development, and an imbalance can lead to depression. Since roughly 16% of expectant mothers are diagnosed with a disorder related to depression, it is possible that bupropion will be prescribed to treat side effects. According to The National Birth Defects Prevention Study, .2% of pregnancies associated with the drug experienced side effects. Out of each group of a thousand women who took bupropion in their pregnancy’s first trimester, two infants experienced cardiac birth defects. Studies of other antidepressants taken by women during pregnancy, particularly during the first and second trimesters, show that they can delay proper development in the child. One example is Paxil, a drug which caused suicidal tendencies, birth defects, and addiction in patients. While Wellbutrin has not created the same number of cases as Paxil, the similarity between the two drugs is cause for concern.

According to the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, babies exposed to bupropion during early pregnancy are more than twice as likely to be at risk for heart defects than those that were not exposed. The most common defect causes blood flow to be disrupted from the heart’s left chambers to the rest of the body. The defect often affects the aorta, narrowing the aorta dangerously. This condition in children must be corrected surgically. The American Psychiatric Association suggests that a possible alternative to antidepressant medication in cases of mild or moderate depression is psychotherapy. However, in cases of severe depression, medication is often the best option for the well-being of both mother and child.

While the precise risks of using Wellbutrin are still being researched by the scientific community, it is important to keep in mind that use of the drug may be linked to harmful side effects. If you or a loved one have used the drug and believe that it has caused a defect, consult a personal injury attorney who specializes in pharmaceutical cases. Hopefully, by staying informed, patients can avoid the vicious cycle of unwanted complications that result from medical treatment.