Anti-depressant led to elderly couple's murder-suicide, Jackson suit claims — (The West Virginia Record)

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The West Virginia Record

By Lawrence Smith

May 28, 2010

RIPLEY — The murder-suicide of a Jackson County couple is at the center of a wrongful death, and product liability suit against New York pharmaceutical company.

Forest Laboratories and Forest Pharmaceuticals are named as co-defendants in a lawsuit filed in Jackson Circuit Court on April 30 by Robin J. Hall. In her six-count complaint, Hall, 49, a resident of Staats Mill, alleges Forest failed to alert both her father, and his physician of potentially dangerous side-effects of medication he was taking which resulted in him taking the life of his wife, then his own.

Located in New York, N.Y., Forest Laboratories is the parent company of Forest Pharmaceuticals based in St. Louis, Mo. Forest Pharmaceuticals handles the manufacture, sell and distribution of all Forest products in the United States.

In her suit, Hall says her father, Robert Raines, was prescribed Celexa by his doctor on April 24, 2008. Later that day, Raines purchased Celexa in 20 mg tablets.

Celexa is the brand name for Citalopram, a psychoactive drug in the class of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors.  It is used mostly for treatment of depression by altering a person’s serotonin levels.

Forest, Hall alleges, was aware Celexa caused an increased risk of suicidal behavior in people over 65, yet failed to conduct any further testing or investigation. Also, she alleges in its promotional materials, Forest failed to warn not only patients, but also physicians and pharmacists of that risk.

As early as Oct. 15, 2004, Forest was aware of the causality between SSRI drugs like Celexa and suicidal behavior in children. It was then, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration ordered Forest to put a “black box warning” on Celexa for anyone under the age of 24 about the potential risk of suicidal behavior.

Even before the black box warnings, Hall alleges Forest knew of the suicidal side-effects caused by Celexa as it placed prominent warnings on it in Europe. However, the black box warnings were themselves misleading as they “indicat[ed] that short term studies did not show an increase in the risk of suicide in adults beyond the age of 24 and showed a reduction of risk of suicide in adults over 65.”

Five days after first taking Celexa, Hall alleges Raines first shot and killed his wife, Elsie, then himself. According to their death certificates, both Robert, 78, and Elsie, 71, died of a single gunshot wound to the head within minutes of each other sometime on April 30, 2008.

Along with one for wrongful death, Hall, as the executor of her parent’s estates, makes claims against Forest for negligence, strict liability, fraud and breach of implied warranty. Her parent’s deaths, Hall alleges, was a direct result of Robert taking Celexa without any warning from Forest that it posed a risk of suicide to seniors despite knowing for years it might.

Hall seeks unspecified damages, court costs, attorney fees and interest. She is represented by Brent K. Kesner with the Charleston law firm of Kesner, Kesner and Bramble.

The case is assigned to Judge David W. Nibert.

Jackson Circuit Court case number 10-C-59