GSK to Pay $6.4M for Murders Committed by Man Taking Antidepressant Paxil
A federal District Court jury in Wyoming ruled Wednesday that GlaxoSmithKline must pay $6.4 million to the relatives of a man who killed three family members and himself after taking the company's antidepressant Paxil, Bloomberg News/Los Angeles Times reports. According to GSK spokesperson Mary Anne Rhyne, this verdict marks the first time that Paxil, which ranks second behind Eli Lilly's Prozac in United States antidepressant sales, has been found "responsible" for causing deaths (Bloomberg News/Los Angeles Times, 6/8). The New York Times reports that "many lawsuits" have been filed claiming that Paxil's class of antidepressants, which also includes Prozac and Pfizer's Zoloft, contributes to suicide or violent activity, with the issue in these cases "be[ing] whether the drugs themselves or the illnesses they are meant to treat are to blame for patients' violent or suicidal behavior." Charles Preuss, a lawyer for GlaxoSmithKline, called the verdict a "surprise," saying, "This issue was raised in the early '90s, and since that time all the scientific articles have concluded that these antidepressants do not cause suicide or homicide or suicidal thoughts" (Hilts, New York Times, 6/8). But Jim Fitzgerald, an attorney for the plaintiffs, said that evidence from GSK research demonstrated that "some Paxil users experienced hallucinations, psychosis, suicide attempts and aggressive behavior on the drug" (Bloomberg News/Los Angeles Times, 6/8). Plaintiffs' attorneys argued in the trial that GSK had failed to "sufficiently warn" physicians and patients about these potential side effects of Paxil (New York Times, 6/8). "We hope that [GSK] will heed the verdict and issue appropriate warnings so that no other families will have to endure this type of preventable tragedy," Fitzgerald said. GSK said it will appeal the verdict (Bloomberg News/Los Angeles Times, 6/8).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.