Paxil / Paroxetine Suicide Lawsuit

generic paxil suicide

Baum Hedlund is investigating Paxil suicide cases on behalf of families whose loved ones have taken their life while on Paxil and patients who have attempted suicide while taking a form of Paxil.

On April 20, 2017, a jury in Illinois awarded $3 million to Wendy Dolin, the widow of 57-year-old Stewart Dolin, who committed suicide six days after he started taking a generic form of the antidepressant Paxil. The Paxil attorneys at the law firm of Baum, Hedlund, Aristei & Goldman represented Wendy Dolin in her landmark case.

In January of 2014, GlaxoSmithKline, the original developer and maker of Paxil, transferred full responsibility for Paxil (paroxetine) to Apotex. Although Apotex did not make the drug taken by Mr. Dolin, the company now manufactures Paxil and generic Paxil (paroxetine) and is responsible for the content of the paroxetine label (the printed information that accompanies the drug), a key issue during the Dolin trial.

If you or someone you know was seriously injured or took their life after taking Paxil or generic Paxil (paroxetine hcl), we hope you will take a moment to read this information. It explains why a jury of 12 men and women concluded that generic Paxil, not emotional stress or mental illness, caused Mr. Dolin to take his own life.

On September 1, 2017, Baum Hedlund sent a letter to Apotex, the current manufacturer of Paxil and paroxetine, putting the company on notice that the Paxil label is inadequate. We encourage you to read this letter.

The Dolin paroxetine lawsuit returned a verdict worth $3 million and sent a message to generic drug makers: you will be held accountable if you fail to warn consumers about dangerous side effects.

“The Dolin verdict sent a clear message to GSK and other drug manufacturers that hiding data and manipulating science will not be tolerated,” says Paxil attorney R. Brent Wisner. “Brand drug manufacturers have the ability and responsibility to make their drug labels accurate. If you create a drug and know that it poses serious risks, regardless of whether consumers use the brand name or generic version of that drug, you have a duty to warn.”

Just as GSK was brought to justice for failing to warn consumers about dangerous Paxil side effects, so should Paxil (paroxetine) manufacturer Apotex.

If you would like to learn more about filing an Apotex lawsuit, we can help. Contact the law firm of Baum, Hedlund, Aristei & Goldman today for a free case evaluation by an experienced generic Paxil lawyer.

Can Generic Paxil Cause Someone to Commit Suicide?

All antidepressants like Paxil and generic paroxetine hcl carry a “black box” warning on the label, stating that these drugs can increase the risk of suicidal ideation and behavior in children, adolescents, and young adults up to the age of 24. But what about adults 25 and over? At the center of the Dolin generic Paxil suicide case were two basic questions:

  • Can Paxil or generic Paxil (paroxetine) cause someone over the age of 24 to commit suicide? If so,
  • Does the drug’s label properly warn physicians and their patients of this risk?

For now, let us address the first question, as its answer is of utmost importance to individuals who are considering filing a generic Paxil suicide lawsuit.

Paxil and “generic Paxil” (paroxetine) are prescribed to people diagnosed with a wide range of mental and emotional difficulties, including depression or anxiety. These disturbances may cause some people to experience suicidal ideation, attempt suicide, or cause individuals to harm themselves in some way.

With this in mind, it is natural to ask: “If such individuals commit suicide, or harm themselves in some way, how can you blame the drug?” People damaged by antidepressants, or who have seen their loved ones commit suicide or harm themselves while taking antidepressants, might well think that “mental illness” was solely to blame.

Jurors in the Dolin trial no doubt considered the same possibility. Nevertheless, after five weeks of testimony from psychiatrists and experts in pharmacology, the jurors were convinced that the current body of research and medical science pertaining to antidepressants, Paxil (paroxetine) and suicide proved the drug was to blame. Generic Paxil—paroxetine—can cause someone over 24 to take his, or her, life.

A 2017 Generic Paxil Suicide Lawsuit Resulted in a $3 Million Verdict

The most persuasive evidence introduced during the Dolin trial came directly from GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), the company that developed Paxil (paroxetine hydrochloride) and brought it to market in 1992. At that time, GSK was named SmithKline Beecham.

Jurors heard from Dr. David Ross, who worked for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for 10 years reviewing new drug applications submitted to the agency by pharmaceutical companies.

Dr. Ross testified about a suicide report on Paxil that GSK submitted to the FDA in 1991 following the Paxil clinical trials. In clinical trials, human subjects are given either the drug being tested or a placebo, which is used as a control in testing and has no therapeutic effect. Clinical trials are conducted to establish a drug’s safety and effectiveness.

According to Dr. Ross, GSK’s report on Paxil side effects (Plaintiff’s Exhibit 82) misrepresented the suicide data collected during clinical trials. Specifically, GSK reported a higher number of suicides and suicide attempts in the placebo group than actually took place during the trials.

GSK submission to the FDA 1989

GSK also reported a lower number of suicide attempts in the paroxetine group. These alterations made it appear as though those who took paroxetine faced about the same risk of suicide and suicidal behavior as those who took a placebo.

GSK actually made this claim to the FDA, to physicians at medical conferences, and in medical journals before and after Paxil received FDA approval.

At a December 1991 meeting of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology, SmithKline Beecham employees presented a report claiming that “suicidal thoughts and behavior occurred less frequently with paroxetine than with either placebo or active controls [subjects taking a different antidepressant].”

In 1995, an SKB employee and two other psychiatrists published a paper in the journal European Neuropsychopharmacology which asserted that paroxetine hcl reduced suicides and suicide attempts. SKB encouraged its sales force to use this article in talking to physicians in order to allay concerns about a suicide risk caused by the drug.

However, as Dr. Ross testified, the data from Paxil’s clinical trials, when it was not altered, demonstrated that patients taking Paxil had nearly nine times the risk of committing or attempting suicide compared to those taking a placebo. Keep in mind, patients in both groups had about the same levels of depression, on average.

The increased risk was confirmed in 2006 by GSK’s internal analysis of its own suicide data. Patients taking Paxil were nearly seven times more likely to attempt suicide than those on placebo.

That same year, an FDA analysis of select clinical trials involving adults, found that taking Paxil resulted in a statistically significant 2.7 times increased risk of suicidal behavior compared to placebo for all indications.

Dr. Russell Katz, the FDA’s Director of Neurological Products, explained during an FDA Advisory Committee Meeting (Joint Meeting of the Peripheral Nervous and Central Nervous System Drugs Advisory Committee) in 2006, that statistically significant findings such as this are “operationally defined as causality.” In short, by the end of 2006, a clear picture had emerged: Taking Paxil can cause older adults, as well as children and young adults, to experience dangerous Paxil or paroxetine side effects, including suicidal behavior.

“Glaxo has known for two decades that Paxil can cause people of all ages to commit suicide. The company not only hid the risk, but stuck its head in the sand and ignored countless suicides that occurred in its clinical trials,” says Michael Baum, senior managing partner of Baum Hedlund and Paxil attorney. Baum adds that Paxil’s Black Box warning—which states there is a suicide risk for children, adolescents and young adults, but the risk ends at age 24—is “just wrong.”

What SmithKline Beecham (SKB) told the FDA in 1991:

“… patients randomized [randomly assigned to take Paxil, placebo, or a comparison drug] to paroxetine therapy were at no greater risk for suicidal ideation or behavior than patients who were randomized to placebo or other active medication. . . . “

Letter from SKB to Paul Leber, director of FDA Division of Neuropharmacological Drug Products,
May 10, 1991 (Plaintiff’s Exhibit 82)

What SKB’s Paxil (paroxetine hcl) drug testing actually showed:

“… the increase in risk [for patients taking Paxil] … was about almost nine-fold for suicides plus suicide attempts.”

David Ross, MD, Ph.D., Medical Officer, FDA Division of Neuropharmacological Drug Products, 1989-1991

The Deadly Paxil Side Effects: Akathisia, Emotional Blunting and Suicidal Behavior

Jurors in the Dolin trial also heard from psychiatrist David Healy, one of the world’s foremost experts on Paxil and drugs in its class, known as SSRI’s (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors). Dr. Healy told the jurors that Paxil and drugs like it can create in some people a state of extreme “emotional turmoil” and intense inner restlessness known as akathisia, one of several known Paxil side effects.

“People have described it like a state worse than death. Death will be a blessed relief. I want to jump out of my skin,” Dr. Healy said. Healthy volunteer studies have found that akathisia can happen even to people with no psychiatric condition who take the drug.

According to Dr. Healy, “… there’s a bunch of things right at the start [of taking the drug] that the drugs do all of which can contribute to you becoming suicidal.” Akathisia may begin a few days after starting treatment and gradually worsen over the next 7 – 10 days. Dolin jumped in front of a Chicago Transit Authority train six days after starting treatment.

Akathisia is an on-off phenomenon; a person could be fine one minute, and thirty minutes later feel suicidal. It is also a known generic Paxil side effect that has been shown to disappear after a person stops taking the drug.

Published courtesy of the MISSD Foundation

As a blog points out, some of the experiences Bruce Springsteen shares in his book, Born to Run, may actually have been treatment-induced akathisia rather than “agitated depression.” Bruce, having been on antidepressants for the last 12 to 15 years of his life, describes a time he came home after being on the road:

“I had an attack of what was called “agitated depression.” During this period, I was so profoundly uncomfortable in my own skin that I just wanted OUT. It feels dangerous and bring plenty of unwanted thoughts. I was uncomfortable doing anything. Standing …walking …sitting down…everything brought waves of an agitated anxiety that I’d spend every waking minute trying to dispel. Demise and foreboding were all that awaited and sleep was the only respite. During waking hours, I’d spend the day trying to find a position I would feel all right in for the next few minutes. I was not hyper. In fact, I was too depressed to concentrate on anything of substance.

“I’d pace the room looking for the twelve square inches of carpet where I might find release. If I could get myself to work out, that might produce a short relief, but really all I wanted was the bed, the bed, the bed, the bed and unconsciousness. I spent good portions of the day with the covers up to my nose waiting for it to stop. Reading, even watching television, felt beyond my ability. All my favorite things – listening to music, watching some film noir – caused such unbearable anxiety in me because they were undoable. Once I was cut off from all my favorite things, the things that tell me who I am, I felt myself dangerously slipping away. I became a stranger in a borrowed and disagreeable body and mind.”

Emotional Blunting and the Connection to Antidepressant Suicide

Another Paxil side effect known to increase the risk of suicide is emotional blunting. This is also a well-recognized side effect of drugs in Paxil’s class, one that others have referred to as apathy or emotional indifference.

Dr. Healy told the jurors in the Dolin trial that emotional blunting, combined with akathisia, can lead to a mental state in which an individual has thoughts of harming themselves or others, but is “numbed” to the consequences of their actions. Drugs in the Paxil class can also cause someone to “go psychotic, become delirious,” Dr. Healy explained.

“It’s a drug-induced reaction, a compulsion to kill yourself, which again, I’ve interviewed people who have survived these attempts. So, I refer to them as a paroxetine-induced accident, not a suicide. It’s paroxetine. It’s the label that didn’t warn that is the cause.”

Harvard psychiatrist and SSRI expert Joseph Glenmullen, March 29, 2017 trial testimony

Paxil / Paroxetine Suicidal Behavior and Self-Harm

According to Dr. Healy’s testimony during the Dolin trial, when SSRIs came onto the market, scientists noticed early on that those who harmed themselves while taking the drugs did so in particularly violent ways. Plaintiff’s exhibit 347 from the trial, which can be seen on the Baum Hedlund trial exhibit page, depicts 22 individuals who committed suicide during the Paxil clinical trials. Sixteen of the suicides were violent in nature, including multiple suicides using firearms.

The timing of Mr. Dolin’s death is crucial. A 2015 study of antidepressants published in the British Medical Journal found that rates of suicide and self-harm were highest in the first 28 days after starting treatment and the first 28 days after stopping treatment.

“One of the things that struck people fairly early on with the effects of these pills was that the nature, the way people harmed themselves, often seemed to be disproportionately violent.”

Psychiatrist and psychopharmacologist David Healy, March 15, 2017 trial testimony

How Do I File a Generic Paxil Suicide Lawsuit?

If you or someone you care about has been harmed by generic Paxil, we hope this page provided you with information that helps explain how and why that can happen. The law firm of Baum, Hedlund, Aristei & Goldman is one of the most experienced and knowledgeable firms in the nation in bringing major pharmaceutical companies, including GlaxoSmithKline and other makers of SSRI antidepressants, to justice.

Over the last three decades, the Baum Hedlund law firm has represented thousands of victims who have been harmed by dangerous pharmaceutical drugs, including Paxil. We filed our first Paxil suicide lawsuits against GSK in the early 2000s and our firm was appointed lead counsel representing thousands of Paxil victims from across the United States in multidistrict litigation.

The law firm of Baum, Hedlund, Aristei & Goldman is currently representing individuals in Paxil suicide lawsuits. To find out if you are eligible to file a claim, please follow these three easy steps:

  • Contact a Paxil Lawyer at Baum, Hedlund, Aristei & Goldman – Call us toll free at 800-827-0087 or fill out the case review form at the bottom of this page.
  • A Baum Hedlund Attorney Will Review Your Case for Free – Our attorneys will review the circumstances of your case and determine if you are eligible to seek compensation by filing a Paxil suicide lawsuit. During your free case consultation, please feel free to ask any questions or raise concerns you may have about the process of filing a Paxil suicide lawsuit. We are here to help.
  • Talk to Your Family and Decide if Seeking Compensation by Filing a Paxil Suicide Lawsuit is Right for You – Once we agree to represent you, the choice of whether or not to pursue a claim is still yours to make. We advise you to discuss the matter with your family. Also, be sure to check out our client testimonials to see what past clients have to say about our firm.

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