May 4, 2010
New study links drugs Wellbutrin and Zyban to infant heart defect
Researchers in a recent study found that pregnant women taking the drug bupropion, formerly known as amfebutamone, may have an increased risk of having a baby born with a specific type of heart defect. Initially researched and marketed as the antidepressant Wellbutrin, buproprion was subsequently found to be an effective smoking cessation aid and is also marketed as the smoking cessation drug Zyban.
The study, conducted by the Centers for Disease Control, evaluated more than 12,700 U.S. infants born between 1997 and 2004. Children of mothers who took bupropion during early pregnancy had more than double the risk of left outflow tract defects, a heart defect that affects the flow of blood from the heart's left chambers to the rest of the body. Narrowing or coarctation of the aorta was the most common left outflow defect found. In children, this defect typically requires surgical repair.
Though the risk is small - an estimated two cases out of every 1,000 births among women taking bupropion in the first trimester - researchers recommend that women on antidepressants who are planning to become pregnant speak with their doctors about alternative options. No depression medication has been established as "safe" for pregnant women, and research in this area continues.