Opening arguments were presented to a Pennsylvania state court jury on Tuesday in a test case that charges that GlaxoSmithKline covered up studies suggesting that Paxil, its successful antidepressant, causes birth defects. Michelle David, a former cheerleader for the Philadelphia 76ers, sued on behalf of her 3-year-old son, claiming that her son's heart defects were caused by her consumption of Paxil. [Here's the Philadelphia Inquirer report on the case.] There are more than 600 other cases alleging that Paxil's side effects were concealed. Paxil generated about $942 million in sales last year.
During opening statements, the plaintiffs' attorney read jurors from one 1997 memo from a Glaxo executive. "If neg, results can bury," the executive had advised, referring to the possibility that the company might be compelled to conduct animal trials with Paxil. Plaintiffs claim that Glaxo urged in-house scientists to withhold data on side effects from the company's report on the "core safety philosophy for Paxil. For their part, Glaxo's lawyers told the jury that the 3-year-old's heart defect wasn't caused by Paxil at all, and that plaintiffs have cherry-picked a few out-of-context snippets from a huge number of Glaxo documents to put together their case. This is the typical profile of such "failure to warn" cases.
Meanwhile, on Monday, according to Bloomberg, U.S. District judge Nancy Gertner ruled that plaintiffs in a Mississippi case against Glaxo are entitled to correspondence between the company and researchers at Boston University's Slone Epidemiology Center relating to a Paxil study published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2007. This one is one to follow.