Celexa, also know by the generic name citalopram, is a medication typically used to treat depression. Celexa is an SSRI or Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor, which means it changes mood by blocking neurotransmitters from being reabsorbed by the brain. Celexa is a non habit forming drug and, as is typical of SSRIs, it is slow acting, taking commonly two to three weeks to effect noticeable change in an individual.

Celexa is one of many pharmaceuticals produced and distributed by Forest Laboratories, LLC, which was recently acquired by Actavis. This company boasts of being the one of the fastest growing pharmaceutical companies, and credits this growth to their devotion to strong research and development.

First introduced in the UK, Celexa was approved for sales in the United State in 1998. Celexa quickly became an incredibly popular drug and was the third most prescribed medication in 2013.

The FDA-provided Medication Guide for Celexa indicates that this medication is intended to be used to treat depression. Although it hasn’t been approved by the FDA for this purpose, it is also used to treat obsessive compulsive disorder.

Currently, Celexa is only available to take orally in tablet form.

Side Effects of Celexa

The side effects are outlined by the FDA-approved Medication Guide guide for Celexa. According to information provided in the guide, individuals should avoid suddenly discontinuing the use of Celexa as the withdrawal symptoms may be dangerous to their health.The possible side effects are as follows:

  • Patients may experience suicidal thoughts or take suicidal actions after first beginning Celexa. If this symptoms are present, contact your doctor immediately.
  • A condition known as serotonin syndrome occasionally presents in patients starting an SSRI or changing their dose. If symptoms such changes in mental status, unconsciousness, hallucinations, confusion, fever, nausea, or muscle rigidity occur, individuals should consult their doctor.  The risk of developing serotonin syndrome increases when other drugs or supplements are taken in conjunction with celexa that also increase serotonin, such as St. John Wort.
  • Allergic reactions with symptoms of swelling, difficulty breathing, or hives.
  • Abnormal bleeding may occur is Celexa is used simultaneously with blood thinners or anti-inflammatories.
  • Chest pain, quickening or slowing of your heart beat, shortness of breath.
  • Symptoms of mania such as grandiose ideas, impulsivity, rapid speech, and insomnia.
  • Changes in weight or appetite.
  • Birth Defects or Injuries.

In addition, some drugs may pose an interaction risk when taking them concurrently. These include, but are not limited to antiplatelets, NSAIDs, and MAO inhibitors.

The FDA provides safety information on Celexa’s contraindications, warnings, and precautions.

Celexa Birth Defects

Celexa is categorized as a class C pregnancy drug, which means in animals studies there have been negative effects on the fetus when Celexa was taken during pregnancy. However, there is inadequate research to determine potential harm in human pregnancies.

Mild symptoms exist most commonly when Celexa is taken during pregnancy. When taken during the first trimester, mothers have an increased chance of miscarriage, as well as early labor and delivery. If taken after twenty weeks, newborns have a chance of exhibiting symptoms of withdrawing from the drug after birth.

More recent research has shown that legitimate risk of birth defects exists when taking Celexa during pregnancy, however some doctors continue to prescribe this medication believing that untreated depression may pose a more serious threat.

Potential side effects from Celexa taken during pregnancy include the following:

  • Heart defects: Research performed in 2009 by the American Psychological Association and the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology found an increased risk of septal heart defects in babies when Celexa is taken during the first three months of pregnancy.
  • Anencephaly: a neural tube defect that results in a newborn being born missing parts of it’s skull or brain. Babies with this condition typically die after birth.
  • Craniosynostosis: The bones in a baby’s skull do not typically fuse together until around two years of age. This birth defect causes the skull to fuse prematurely, resulting in abnormal pressure in the skull.
  • Omphalocele:  A defect in which the baby is born with part or all of their intestines on the outside of their body.
  • Persistent Pulmonary Hypertension in the Newborn or PPHN:  Arteries are seriously constricted, restricting blood flow to the lungs and resulting in low oxygen levels at birth.

Breastfeeding and Celexa

Research has shown that Celexa transfers into the breastmilk and is present in nursing infants in varying degrees. In some cases, this resulted in behavioral changes in the newborn suchs as excessive sleepiness and fussiness. At this time, research does not suggest that infants of nursing mothers who are prescribed Celexa are at risk for serious side effects. As always, mothers should proceed with caution and consult with their doctor before taking this medication while breastfeeding.

Celexa Lawsuits

Even though research has shown that risks of birth defects are increased when Celexa is taken during pregnancy, some doctors still choose to prescribe Celexa during pregnancy. Additionally, the FDA asserts that Celexa can and should be taken during pregnancy if the benefits outweigh the risks.

Several lawsuit have been filed by parents of children born with birth defects after the mother was prescribed Celexa during pregnancy. This lawsuits argue that Forest laboratories is responsible for these birth defects for improperly manufacturing Celexa, failing to perform the necessary research to determine risks involved, not only failing to warn of these risks but continuing to market Celexa as safe for pregnancy.  

Notable lawsuits include:

  • Jamie Harrington of Indiana after her child was born with numerous heart defects. Jamie was prescribed Celexa during her pregnancy.
  • Jason Bifulco in Florida. His daughter was also born with multiple birth defects after her mother was prescribed Celexa during her pregnancy.

In both of these cases, the mothers assert if they have been properly warned of the risks of taking Celexa during their pregnancies, they never would have put their babies at risk for birth defects by taking the prescribed medication. These parents are pursuing financial compensation for the multiple procedures their children have been required to have due to their heart defects.

When there is a risk involved with taking a certain medication, pharmaceutical companies should be held responsible for failing to properly warn of these risks. Outside of birth defects, several lawsuits have been filed against Forest Laboratories for their failure to market this medication honestly.

Know Your Legal Rights

Pharmaceutical companies such as Forest Laboratories are responsible for informing doctors and consumers of the potential risks associated with consuming the medications they produce. Was your child born with birth defects after you were prescribed Celexa during your pregnancy? Do you know your legal rights? You may have grounds for a lawsuit against Forest Laboratories.

If you took Celexa while pregnant, and your baby was born with birth defects, a lawyer may be able to help you.