HUNTINGTON – Twelve lawsuits have been filed against Forest Pharmaceuticals Inc. after children were born with birth defects.

Forest Research Institute and Forest Laboratories Inc. were also named as defendants in the suit.

C.S., by his mother, Rachel Stafford; S.B., by her mother, Kathleen Burch; B.A., by her mother, Jaclynn Bayley; S.G., by her mother, Alexis Griffith; D.R., by her mother, Loretta Ridener; K.W., by his mother, Brandi Workman; J.V., by his mother, Diane Vaspory; J.D., by his mother, Svenja Damele; M.R., by his mother, Bianca Folwell; Erica J. Atkinson, as representative of the Estate of Sophia Cowen; B.B., by his mother, Jennifer Barker; and Kassi Emerson, as representative of the Estate of Jaycee Aldridge, were prescribed and/or exposed to Celexa and/or Lexapro in utero, according to 12 complaints filed in Cabell Circuit Court.

Forest developed, labeled, marketed, monitored, performed regulatory compliance and reporting, performed and/or participated in clinical trials, performed drug surveillance, researched and tested the drug "escitalopram," sold under the trade name Lexapro, which is a member of a class of drugs known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors.

Forest also developed, labeled, marketed, monitored, performed regulatory compliance and reporting, performed and/or participated in clinical trials, performed drug surveillance, researched and tested the drug "citalopram," sold under the trade name Celexa.

Lexapro and Celexa have the same active ingredient, which makes it essentially the same drug, according to the suits.

The plaintiffs claim Forest knew through pre- and post-market studies that Lexapro was associated with a significant increased risk of birth defects in babies whose mothers ingested Lexapro during pregnancy and, despite that knowledge, aggressively and actively promoted Lexapro for use by women in their child-bearing years, including pregnant women.

Forest continues to represent that Lexapro is safe for use for women of child-bearing years, including during pregnancy, and continues to mislead both consumers and physicians on the safety of Lexapro, according to the suits.

The plaintiffs claim Forest has yet to include a warning label of Lexapro on the increased risk of birth defects associated with its use.

During the time Celexa and Lexapro have been on the market, FDA regulations have required Forest to issue stronger warnings whenever there existed reasonable evidence of an association between a serious hazard and the drugs, however, the defendants have not done that with the birth defects hazard, according to the suits.

The plaintiffs claim the defendants knew or should have known of the increased risk of birth defects in babies of mothers who ingested Lexapro or Celexa during pregnancy and breached its duty by failing to properly label the drugs and use all means necessary to inform the public of the defects.

The birth defects suffered by the minor plaintiffs were the direct and proximate result of their mothers' ingestion of Lexapro and/or Celexa. The infants sustained congenital heart defects and other bodily injuries, according to the suits.

The plaintiffs claim the defendants failed to warn them of the dangers of the drugs.

The defendants were also negligent and caused the plaintiffs to suffer emotional stress, according to the suits.

The plaintiffs are seeking compensatory and punitive damages with pre- and post-judgment interest. They are being represented by Bert Ketchum and Larry A. Bailey of Greene, Ketchum, Farrell, Bailey & Tweel.

The cases have been assigned to Circuit Judge Christopher D. Chiles.

Cabell Circuit Court case numbers: 15-C-358, 15-C-359, 15-C-360, 15-C-361, 15-C-362, 15-C-363, 15-C-364, 15-C-365, 15-C-366, 15-C-367, 15-C-368, 15-C-369

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