Several studies have found that Zofran use during pregnancy significantly increases the risk of birth defects, including heart defects. In 2014, a study by Swedish researchers, published in Reproductive Toxicology, found that Zofran use in early pregnancy doubled the risk of septal heart defects. Zofran was illegally marketed as a safe treatment for morning sickness, and now mothers are filing lawsuits for the harm it caused to their babies. Recently, a Louisiana mom filed a suit against GlaxoSmithKline alleging that the drug caused her son’s atrial septal defect which has required two heart surgeries so far and may require more in the future.
Hole in the Heart
Atrial septal defect (ASD) is a defect in which there is a hole in the wall that separates the upper chambers of the heart. Blood flows through the hole from one chamber to the other.
A hole in the heart is a normal part of development in the womb, but it should close right before the baby is born. When it doesn’t close, the severity of the problem depends on the size of the hole and whether it closes on its own or not.
If the hole is small, it will often close on its own and may not cause any noticeable symptoms. A larger hole can damage the heart and lungs over time. Babies rarely show noticeable symptoms, but doctors can often hear a heart murmur through a stethoscope. In cases where the hole is very large babies may show symptoms such as:
- Poor growth
- Shortness of breath
- Easily fatigued
When detected in babies, ASD can be corrected surgically before there is significant damage. When left untreated, ASD can cause serious and life-threatening problems in adults including:
- Arrhythmias – heart rhythm abnormalities
- Right-sided heart failure
- Increased risk of stroke
- Pulmonary hypertension – increased blood pressure in the lungs
- Eisenmenger syndrome – permanent lung damage
Adults with untreated ASD often have a significantly shortened life span.
Zofran and Atrial Septal Defect
Surgery to correct ASD usually goes well, without serious complications, but no baby should have to go through surgery as a result of a defective drug. Zofran can cause several types of birth defects and babies who develop ASD may be contending with multiple birth defects which can complicate treatment and recovery.
Parents of children who suffer from Zofran birth defects face enormous financial struggles. The medical treatments their children require can be very expensive and many children will need ongoing care. In some cases a parent may not be able to return to work because they have to stay home and care for the injured child.