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antidepressants under the scope

P

regnancy can be a stressful, emotional experience and women who become depressed may turn to medication for help. But researchers in Sweden have reported a link between antidepressants and autism. Pregnant women taking SSRIs showed a more-than-triple increase in risk of offspring with autism spectrum disorder. Other researchers in the San Francisco Bay Area examined the association between autism and antidepressants during pregnancy. In a study published last year, they found a more than twofold increased risk of autism associated with SSRIs, with the strongest effect found in the first trimester. One research group concluded that “fetal and infant exposure to SSRIs should be examined in humans, particularly those with developmental dysfunction, such as autism.“ When asked about any ongoing studies by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, spokeswoman Andrea Fischer responded: “The FDA is not aware of any studies demonstrating that antidepressant use causes autism.” There have been no studies looking for potential epigenetic or germ line effects of SSRIs. WSU’s Michael Skinner is intrigued, and wants to study germ line changes related to pharmaceuticals, but says the research funds aren’t there. “In my opinion, it’s a catch-22. If we can’t find research money to do the studies, then the medical community is not going to pay attention. All it would take is a few good publications to raise the red flag. Then the industry would respond accordingly, and the FDA would respond,” he said. — Jane Kay for by Escher’s fund, will look for connections between any pharmaceuticals they were exposed to in the womb and neurological disorders of their children. Scientists, Escher said, have access to a treasure trove: the parents and grandparents of autistic children. “Most autism families can generate very strong clues about what could have happened with their children. But it requires probing deep into ancestral exposures. The clues are there,” she said. As for her own anguish, “I love my kids. But I don’t want this to happen to anyone else. It’s too hard. It’s too damaging.” n A version of this story first appeared in Environmental Health News (environmentalhealthnews.org).

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Inhealth October 2013  
Inhealth October 2013