The antidepressant Wellbutrin has joined a host of related drugs such as Prozac, Zoloft and Paxil that may be linked to heart birth defects.
Manufactured by pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline, Wellbutrin was the subject of a recent study published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology; the findings suggest that women who use the drug early in their pregnancy may risk having a baby with a heart defect.
Nearly 13,000 infants born between 1997 and 2004 were studied retrospectively. Infants whose mothers were prescribed Wellbutrin – known generically as bupropion – during their first trimester of pregnancy had more than double the risk of serious congenital heart problems, the study concluded.
Specifically, the drug may be linked to a heart condition known as left outflow tract defect.
Left outflow tract defect reduces the flow of blood from the heart’s left chambers to the rest of the body. In the Obstetrics and Gynecology study, the most common form of this defect found was coarctation of the aorta (a narrowing of the aorta, or the body’s main artery). In children, coarctation typically requires surgical intervention and repair.
Personal injury and product liability lawsuits claiming injury by Wellbutrin are now underway nationwide.
Sold also under the brand names Wellbutrin XL, Wellbutrin XR, and Zyban, bupropion was approved by the Federal Food and Drug Administration in 1985 for use as an antidepressant. It is classified as a norepinephrine and dopamine reuptake inhibitor (NDRI), a type of antidepressant medication that increases the levels of both norepinephrine and dopamine by inhibiting the reabsorption (reuptake) into cells. As with other antidepressants, the precise mechanism of action isn’t clear. However, it is thought that these increased levels help enhance neurotransmission – the sending of nerve impulses – and thereby improve and elevate mood.
Wellbutrin is used to manage major depression as well as seasonal affective disorder, that is, depression that occurs primarily during the autumn and winter months, perhaps due to lessened sunlight.
In addition to its reputed link to congenital heart defects, Wellbutrin reportedly has caused suicidal thoughts and behaviors, seizures, injury to nursing babies, impaired thinking and coordination, and dangerous allergic reactions. Some patients taking Wellbutrin have experienced abnormal mood swings, dizziness, difficulty breathing, swelling of face, mouth and throat, rash, hives, and panic attacks.