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Widow’s Drug Defect Lawsuit Claims Generic Paxil Prompted Her Husband’s Suicide

In an unexpected ruling, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals has denied GlaxoSmithKline PLC’s motion to dismiss a drug defect lawsuit blaming the pharmaceutical company for a man’s suicide. The wrongful death case, filed by the widow of Stewart Dolin, contends that it was the six paroxetine tablets, which he took as prescribed, that prompted him to kill himself in 2010. Paroxetine is a generic version of Paxil.

Dolin’s widow, Wendy Dolin, claims that the warning on the generic Paxil’s bottle was inadequate because it failed to caution that there was an increased suicide risk for adults. She believes that her husband experienced the serious side effect called Akathisia, which has been linked to certain Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors that are prescribed for anxiety and depression. The resulting inner agitation and restlessness can be so intense that some experts have said that a person might wish to end his/her life.

Under the law, generic drug makers are not allowed to change the labeling designated by the makers of brand name drugs. They must use the same exact wording on their products’ labels. This can make it tough for a consumer to file a drug injury case against the manufacturer.

It was U.S. District Court Judge James Zagel in February who initially decided that Dolin’s case should proceed. He did however dismiss the claims against Mylan Inc., the generic drug maker.

Zagel wrote that it was “largely immaterial” that Glaxo did not make paroxetine because the drug maker was the one that designed and labeled the medication. He said that label and design issues would affect both Paxil and any generic counterparts. Zagel determined that even though GSK cannot be held strictly liable for the suicide, it could be found negligent.

Glaxo is not the only brand manufacturer facing claims over generic versions. Early last year, the Alabama Supreme Court ruled that a patient could sue a brand-name manufacturer for not warning about a drug’s risks even if the medication involved is a generic version made by another company.

The plaintiff in that case, Danny Weeks, argued that he developed tardive dyskinesia, a movement disorder, after taking generic versions of Reglan for his acid reflux. He filed a drug defect case against Teva and Actavis, which are the two companies that made the generic drugs he took, and Wyeth, the maker of Reglan. Weeks claims that there was a failure to properly warn about Reglan’s risks.

In other generic drug injury news, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has suggested a new rule that would allow manufacturers of generic meds to independently include new side effect information to the labels of their medication. If approved, this could generally make it easier to hold generic drug companies liable.

At Altman & Altman, LLP, our Boston SSRI injury lawyers represent victims and their families against brand name companies and generic manufacturers of medications. Please contact our Massachusetts products liability law firm today.

A Case of Mistaken Identity? Glaxo Faces a Lawsuit Over Generic Liability, The Wall Street Journal, June 6, 2014

Read the Seventh Circuit’s Decision (PDF)

Man Taking Generic Drug Can Sue Branded Maker, The New York Times, January 11, 2013

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