Zoloft Lawsuits and Legal Claims
Zoloft an antidepressant belonging to the SSRI class of drugs was released onto the market in 1991. Since the first SSRI antidepressant was released in 1988, over 200 lawsuits have been brought against the big three SSRI makers: Pfizer, GlaxoSmithKline, Eli Lilly.
For the most part the lawsuits have been in response to episodes of aggressive behavior including suicide and homicide attempts caused by SSRIs side effects. So far, one of the most important rulings occurred in Wyoming on June 6th 2001 in the Tobin v. SmithKline trial. The Tobin v. SmithKline trial was a case that dealt with the suicide and multiple homicides committed by Donald Schnell while on Paxil. Schnell had only recently started taking Paxil when he abruptly flew into a rage and killed his wife, his daughter, and his grand daughter before killing himself. The surviving family sued GlaxoSmithKline, the makers of Paxil, and were awarded 8 million when the jury ruled that their was enough evidence to conclude that Paxil was 80% or "primarily" responsible for Schnell's behavior. Although a British Court had ruled that the side effects of Zoloft were primarily to blame in a murder case the month before, the Schnell case was the first time one of the SSRI drug makers was ordered to pay compensation for the harmful effects of their drug.
Not all subsequent suits against the SSRI makers have met with the same success, however. And one case in particular revealed the blurring line between big business and government interests. In December of 2001, Flora Motus of California sued Pfizer for selling a drug that drove her husband Victor Motus to suicide. In 1998, Victor Motus was scheduled to fly to Washington DC to receive an award from President Clinton for his work in a local school district, when instead, he killed himself. He had stated on multiple occasions previously that the Zoloft he was using was making him "crazy." Motus' lawyers argued that Pfizer should include a warning that Zoloft could cause suicide thoughts in some people.
Pfizer's legal team was aware of the recently concluded Tobin v. SmithKline trial and fearing that their case might face the same outcome sought help from Daniel E. Troy, chief legal counsel of the US Food and Drug Administration. Immediately prior to his appointment of chief legal counsel, Troy had been working as a Pfizer lawyer against the FDA and had long been a champion of drug companies. In fact his advocacy of the tobacco industry had been so successful that as one Law Professor put it "The most dangerous drug on the market (one that kills 400,000 annually) is essentially totally unregulated." Needless to say, with his clear and consistent bias toward deregulation, many considered him a bad choice to head the FDA's legal team.
The Pfizer legal team asked Troy to file a brief saying that the FDA agreed with Pfizer's contention that SSRIs do not increase the likelihood of suicidal behavior. Troy completely ignored the current findings and filed a brief that stated that the FDA had dismissed the idea that SSRI antidepressants increase some people's risk of suicide. When later asked about the recently concluded Tobin case, Troy claimed that he was unfamiliar with it.
Nevertheless, despite Troy's professed unfamiliarity of the Tobin case and the numerous studies it highlighted that linked SSRIs to aggression and suicide, he has been quick to lend a hand to the makers of Paxil in their current legal feud regarding drug withdrawal. In fact, Troy filed an FDA brief on Glaxo SmithKline's behalf stating that Paxil does not cause "withdrawal" as the plaintiff's have claimed but instead causes "a discontinuation syndrome." This decision allowed Glaxo SmithKline to continue advertising their product as "not habit forming".
If you are some one who has suffered the loss of a loved one as a result of SSRI side effects, it is easy to grow cynical in face of the disingenuous maneuverings of drug company advocates like Daniel Troy, however, there is reason to be hopeful. In light of a growing number of cases in which people are claiming that an SSRI induced suicidal or homicidal behavior, and a growing number of clinical studies confirming this link and in light of recent evidence that shows that drug makers have long been aware of these effects and have actively attempted to suppress knowledge of them, the only question that remains is how long drug companies, even with the support of high powered advocates like Daniel Troy, can successfully defend their patently false assertion that their product is neither "habit forming" nor capable of "inducing suicidal behavior". The overwhelming consensus in the legal community is not very long.
If some one you love has lost their life because of the terrible side effects of Zoloft please contact us to learn more about your legal rights.
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