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Mark and Phyllis Fetter say their teenage daughter, who had trouble sleeping, was diagnosed with major depression and was prescribed the antidepressant Zoloft last December.
Two weeks later, the 16-year-old wrote a suicide note and tried to kill herself by driving her parents’ car off an embankment, according to the Fetters.
Yesterday, the Oldham County couple sued Pfizer Inc., the maker of Zoloft, and Terence McKenna, the doctor who prescribed the medicine.
The lawsuit, filed in Jefferson Circuit Court, alleges that Pfizer “concealed adverse reports and provided inaccurate or biased information” about Zoloft, misleading doctors who prescribed the antidepressant.
Pfizer failed to inform the medical and research communities that a “significant number of individuals taking Zoloft during clinical trials attempted or committed acts of self-harm,” according to the lawsuit.
McKenna is accused of failing to warn the Fetters of the risks of Zoloft and the benefits of alternative therapies.
The lawsuit is seeking punitive damages and a jury trial. Claims made in filing a lawsuit give only one side of the case.
McKenna, who works at Prospect Pediatrics, and Pfizer Inc. representatives did not return telephone calls seeking comment.
In October, the Food and Drug Administration ordered that all antidepressants carry “black box” warnings that they “increase the risk of suicidal thinking and behavior” in children who take them.
Mark Fetter said no one told his family there was any risk in taking Zoloft.
“There was no warning or anything on the medicine we got,” he said.
“We didn’t know there was a high risk in the first 30 days. The doctor didn’t tell us anything, or we would have been watching her like a hawk.”
The lawsuit, filed by attorney William McMurry, claims the patient has suffered severe mental anguish and will be permanently impaired.
McMurry said this is the first case in Kentucky in which a family has sued a drug maker over a child’s reaction to an antidepressant.
“This is a case of a drug manufacturer placing profits above the health and welfare of children in this country,” McMurry said.
Fetter said his daughter is back in school after four months of recovering from the car wreck.
He said he decided to file a lawsuit after seeing a television program earlier this year about the dangers of antidepressant drugs to teens.
“We want this (lawsuit) to bring awareness to other parents that if their kids are taking depression medicine, the first 30 days are a high risk of suicide,” Mark Fetter said.
“Drug companies are not going to tell you this.”