SSRIs

What Are SSRIs?

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, also known as SSRIs or serotonin boosters, are thought to work by correcting chemical imbalances in the brain. Normally, chemicals called neurotransmitters carry signals from one nerve cell to another. These chemicals are constantly being released and taken back up at the ends of nerve cells. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors act on one particular neurotransmitter, serotonin, reducing its reentry into nerve cells and thus allowing serotonin to build up.

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors are used to treat serious, continuing depression that interferes with a person's ability to function. Like other antidepressant drugs, they help reduce the extreme sadness, hopelessness, and lack of interest in life that are typical in people with depression.

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The anti-depressant drugs – known as Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) — include the following:

  • Paxil® (paroxetine)
  • Prozac® (fluoxetine)
  • Zoloft® (sertraline)
  • Wellbutrin® (bupropion)
  • Celexa® (citalopram)
  • Cipralex® (escitalopram)
  • Luvox® (fluvoxamine)
  • Remeron® (mirtazapine)
  • Effexor® (venlafaxine)

SSRI Side Effects

Mothers who took certain antidepressants have been shown to have a much greater likelihood of giving birth to a baby with birth defects — many of them severe and life-threatening.

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) have been linked to a series of birth defects. SSRI medications include Zoloft (sertraline), Prozac (fluoxetine), Paxil (paroxetine) and Lexapro (escitalopram). In some instances SSRIs have been shown to increase the chance of a certain defect by 600 percent.

Studies have indicated that the use of SSRI antidepressants, including Zoloft, during pregnancy can cause a significantly increased likelihood of severe birth defects. Some of these birth defects include:

  • Persistent Pulmonary Hypertension of the Newborn (PPHN)
  • Omphalocele
  • Anal Atresia
  • Craniosynostosis
  • Heart birth defects
  • Club foot
  • Spina bifida
  • Brain damage
  • Improperly developed limb

FDA's Role in SSRIs

[12-14-2011] The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is updating the public on the use of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressants by women during pregnancy and the potential risk of a rare heart and lung condition known as persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn (PPHN). The initial Public Health Advisory in July 2006 on this potential risk was based on a single published study. Since then, there have been conflicting findings from new studies evaluating this potential risk, making it unclear whether use of SSRIs during pregnancy can cause PPHN.

The FDA has reviewed new study results and has concluded that, given the conflicting results from different studies, it is premature to reach any conclusion about a possible link between SSRI use in pregnancy and PPHN. The FDA will update the SSRI drug labels to reflect the new data and the conflicting results. (See Data Summary)

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