Plaintiffs in the assorted lawsuits pertaining to the potential birth defects caused by the antidepressant Effexor shouldn’t rush to assume that the recent settlements in the Paxil lawsuits will result in similar settlements for their own cases.

On the surface, the cases do look very similar. Both cases involve mothers being prescribed an antidepressant during pregnancy, and the children being born with birth defects. The mothers in these cases believe that the pharmaceutical companies bear a responsibility for the defects and should pay a settlement to help with the burden of caring for a disabled child.

The problem is, there is an equal reason to realize that the cases might not be as perfectly related as it sounds.

Paxil is an SSRI, a Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor. It focuses solely on preventing the brain from reabsorbing serotonin, leading to an elevated mood. By contrast, Effexor is an SNRI, a serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor. It focuses on preventing the brain from absorbing serotonin and norepinephrine, to achieve a similar effect.

This isn’t to say the two drugs aren’t related — they are. SSRIs and SNRIs are very similar and fundamentally the same principle governs their mechanism of action: Let the body keep “feel good” chemicals in its system.

However, legal cases are often decided on fine distinctions. A blood-alcohol content variation of .o1% can be the difference between a DUI and an official warning, depending on the jurisdiction.

This isn’t to say that plaintiffs affected by Effexor prescribed during a pregnancy should give up hope. Far from it. It simply means that rather than assuming the Paxil case means their own case is likely to be victorious, they should focus on presenting the most solid case of their own that they can, and expound heavily on its own unique merits. Each case is its own entity, and should be weighed in that regard.