A judge in Illinois recently ruled that GlaxoSmithKline, the manufacturer of popular antidepressant Paxil, can be held liable for an attorney’s suicide even though he was prescribed a generic version of the drug. Paxil attorneys at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm take a closer look at this ruling and why it is so significant.
A major issue facing pharmaceutical courts is whether or not Big Pharma can or should be responsible for injuries suffered by patients who took generic versions of their drugs. In this case, a corporate and securities attorney was prescribed the antidepressant Paxil, and, sadly, six days after starting the drug, committed suicide.
The man’s wife consequently filed a lawsuit against GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), along with the Mylan Inc., the company that manufactured the generic version. She claimed that the drug companies failed to provide adequate warnings on the antidepressants, specifically that adult patients were at a heightened risk of suicidal thoughts and behavior (referred to as ” suicidal ideation”).
The judge overseeing the case threw out Mylan as a defendant because, under federal law, generic manufacturers are required to include the exact same labels and warnings and brand names (Mutual Pharmaceutical v. Bartlett). The judge stated that, although GSK cannot be held strictly liable for his suicide, it can be found negligent for failing to properly warn patients.
He further agreed that his suicide was directly connected to his antidepressant prescription. He came to this conclusion by consideration of four factors:
- GSK owes a duty to their patients
- Suicidal thoughts and behavior were foreseeable side effects from the medication
- This injury was likely to occur in adult patients
- GSK knew that generic companies would have to include the same exact labels as Paxil
The risk of suicide is a known side effect of antidepressants like Paxil and GSK has known about this since at least the early 2000s. The fact that drugs prescribed to treat depression often do not work, and actually cause or worsen it, is another issue for another blog post.
Only a specific class of antidepressants, SSRIs, carries this risk, however. Among them include Paxil, Prozac, Celexa, Lexapro, Zoloft, Effexor, Wellbutrin and Cymbalta. In May 2006 the FDA acknowledged that Paxil in particular demonstrated high rates of suicide in depressed adults, citing several scientific trials. The agency noted that depressed adults were 6.4 times more likely to have suicidal ideation while on an antidepressant than while taking a placebo pill.
Experts have been warning about this since the early 1990s, basing their assertions on suppressed or hidden data from companies like GSK. To this point, the most recent ruling against GSK is very important. In the judge’s words, “that GSK did not manufacture the pill,” that caused the attorney’s suicide is irrelevant. Warnings of suicidal ideation should have been included on Paxil’s labels from the beginning, as GSK was more than aware of it. Had the warnings been on Paxil’s labels, they would have also been on the generics. This, he said, is precisely the point.
The ruling is so significant because dozens of other courts have ruled in the opposite direction – that brand-name manufacturers cannot be held liable for injuries caused by generic versions of the drugs. It is a complex issue that needs to be addressed, however, it is unclear how far this Illinois ruling will go.
Our team of Paxil attorneys looks forward to the conclusion of this case, and we will continue to report on it as more news surfaces. If you or someone you love was prescribed Paxil and suffered serious injuries as a result, including birth injuries in children born to Paxil patients, contact our firm immediately. We have been working on and fighting Paxil cases for several years, and have extensive knowledge on the drug and GSK. Our case reviews are free, confidential, and available to injured patients nationwide.