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By: Staff Writers | Published: February 24th, 2010
The results of a new study suggest that exposure to antidepressants like Zoloft and Paxil during pregnancy may delay infant developmental goals, such as sitting and walking.
In the study, published in this month’s issue of the medical journal Pediatrics, Danish scientists at Aarhus University in Denmark found that children born to women who took antidepressants were later in hitting developmental milestones than children of mothers who did not.
Sifting through a database of 82,000 pregnant women, researchers examined 415 women who used an antidepressant, such as Paxil, Zoloft and Prozac, during pregnancy to combat depression, and 489 women with depression who did not. Among children born to these women, looking at the six and 19-month milestones of their development, researchers found that children exposed to antidepressants learned to sit upright 16 days later and to walk a month later than children who were not exposed to antidepressants.
Researchers concluded that the children still learned to sit up and walk within an accepted time frame for development, but it was clear that the antidepressants were delaying fetal brain development, which could result in a reversible or permanent effect on the brain. Researchers said the amount of developmental delay could also be affected by when the pregnant mother exposed the fetus to antidepressants.
The use of GlaxoSmithKline’s Paxil during pregnancy has already been linked to an increased risk of persistent pulmonary hypertension in newborns (PPHN) and other heart problems The drug maker faces more than 600 Paxil lawsuits, in which plaintiffs allege that GlaxoSmithKline hid test data and misled doctors and consumers about the risk.
Paxil (paroxetine) is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor prescribed to treat depression. Approved in 1992, it has become one of the most commonly prescribed drugs in the United States, with sales of just under $1 billion in 2008. GlaxoSmithKline has reportedly paid about $1 billion to settle lawsuits over Paxil, which have included allegations of birth defects and suicide. And with hundreds of Paxil birth defect lawsuits still pending, the company is likely to spend substantially more to satisfy jury verdicts or settle all Paxil cases.