Family sues drug firms, doctors over suicide — (Omaha.com)

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Omaha.com

Published Wednesday, October 6, 2004

BY KEVIN COLE, WORLD-HERALD STAFF WRITER

An Omaha family filed a lawsuit Tuesday in Douglas County District Court alleging negligence by two drug companies and three health-care professionals in the death of their 11-year-old son.

David and Debra Jackson contend that the Oct. 10, 2002, suicide of their son, Jacob, was the result of side effects from the antidepressant drugs Zoloft and Effexor.

Spokeswomen for Children’s Hospital and Immanuel Medical Center declined to comment. Calls seeking comment from Pfizer Inc. and Wyeth Pharmaceuticals Inc. were not immediately returned.

On Sept. 14, the FDA’s medical advisory group decided that antidepressants should come with a “black box warning” that they can “spur suicidal behavior in children and teenagers.”

The lawsuit alleges that Pfizer Inc. “failed to adequately test, evaluate and otherwise study the pediatric effects of Zoloft before marketing it to the public.”

Also named as defendants are Sharon S. Cannon, Ph.D., and Dr. Michelle M. Cassidy of Children’s Hospital; and Dr. Michael L. Coy of Alegent Health-Immanuel Medical Center.

The lawsuit alleges that none of the defendants warned that “Jacob should be watched closely for signs that his condition was getting worse.”

Jacob, according to the lawsuit filed by attorney Andrew J. Hilger, was being treated for depression following the deaths of a neighborhood friend and his grandfather.

The lawsuit states that Jacob began taking Zoloft on Sept. 9, 2002, on the recommendation of Cannon.

The lawsuit alleges that after Jacob began taking the medication “his behavior and symptoms worsened to include intensified agitation, suicidal desires, hysterical behavior, irritability, hostility, mania, restlessness, decreased ability to control impulses and chronic refusal to go to school.”

The lawsuit states that Jacob’s Zoloft dosage was increased three times between Sept. 17 and Oct. 2 on the recommendations of Cannon, Dr. Cassidy and Dr. Coy.

Then “on or about Oct. 8,” Dr. Cassidy advised the gradual decrease of the Zoloft dosage and prescribed the drug Effexor.

Two days later, Jacob was found dead in his parents’ basement, having hanged himself.

Contact the Omaha World-Herald newsroom