Earlier this year, GlaxoSmithKline, agreed to add a new warning to its anti-depressant drug, Paxil, and its controlled release version, Paxil Cr. The generic name for Paxil is paroxetine. The warnings will focus on young adults ages 18 – 30, and reads:
“In some children and teens, antidepressants increase suicidal thoughts or actions. Young adults, especially those with depression, may be at increased risk for suicidal actions. Whether or not you are taking antidepressants, you or your family should call the doctor right away if you have worsening depression, thoughts of suicide, or sudden or severe changes in mood or behavior (for example feeling anxious, agitated, panicky, irritable, hostile, aggressive, impulsive, severely restless, hyperactive, overly excited, or not being able to sleep), especially at the beginning of treatment or after a change in dose.”
There have been allegations that GlaxoSmithKline, knew of indications that Paxil could increase the risk of suicide to young adults, but withheld the information in order to get the drug approved by the FDA, and marketed as widely as possible. In 2001, a federal jury in Wyoming, awarded 6.4 million dollars to the survivors or a 60 year old man, who, after taking Paxil for 48 hours, killed his wife, daughter, granddaughter, and himself. The jury believed that Paxil substantially contributed to the decedent’s sudden homicidal and suicidal behavior, and as significantly, that GlaxoSmithKline, hid and ignored evidence that their drug could cause such mental aberrations.
Since the Wyoming verdict, plaintiffs’ lawyers have been more willing to accept cases involving Paxil and suicide. These cases are not easy, as the jury must be convinced that the Paxil substantially contributed to the suicide. Despite their difficulty, any instance in which a young adult who had been taking Paxil, committed suicide, should be evaluated. The FDA/GlaxoSmithKline, 2006 warning about the potential increased suicide risk posed by Paxil, was like a belated admission that the drug carries that lethal risk. The 2001 Wyoming verdict shows that if a jury is convinced that GlaxoSmithKline covered up information damaging to their drug sales, for profit, the jury will award significant damages to survivors of a Paxil-related suicide.