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Paxil Verdict In: Big Loss for GlaxoSmithKline

As I noted here in September, a trial to watch is the one in Philadelphia where Michelle David, a former cheerleader for the Philadelphia 76ers, sued personally and on behalf of her 3-year-old son Lyam Kilker, claiming that the latter's heart defects were caused by her consumption of Paxil during pregnancy. The Kilker case is among 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 to jurors from a 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. David's attorneys 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 cherry-picked a few out-of-context snippets from a huge number of Glaxo documents to put together their case.

On Tuesday, after deliberating for seven hours, a jury condemned Glaxo to pay $2.5 million to the plaintiffs. [The Philadelphia Inquirer report is here.]

Ms. David, 28, said she came from a large family with no previous incidents of heart problems in babies. "I just kept thinking, 'What did I do differently in my pregnancy,' " she said. [This type of post hoc, ergo propter hoc reasoning is typical of drug suits.] For its part, Glaxo noted that "..., the scientific evidence does not establish that exposure to Paxil during pregnancy caused [Lyam's] condition. Very unfortunately, birth defects occur in 3 to 5 percent of all live births, whether or not the mother was taking medication during pregnancy."

Glaxo will appeal, of course, so the saga continues.

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Rafael Mangual
Project Manager,
Legal Policy

Manhattan Institute


Published by the Manhattan Institute

The Manhattan Insitute's Center for Legal Policy.