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Parker Waichman LLP
Jun 1, 2005
ANTIDEPRESSANTS ALTHOUGH THESE POWERFUL DRUGS SERVE A USEFUL PURPOSE, THEIR EXTREMELY SERIOUS SIDE-EFFECTS MUST NEVER BE MINIMIZED ZYPREXA SETTLEMENT UPDATE INFORMATION INCLUDED
When Prozac was approved by the FDA in 1988, it immediately gave hope to millions of people who suffered from depression. As a result of the drug’s incredible success, there was a race to develop and approve other powerful drugs to treat the symptoms of depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, dementia, and other serious psychological disorders.
Although there now seems to be a drug for every psychological problem, concerns over the safety of these drugs have been steadily growing with respect to both adults and children. Many experts say that the benefits of antidepressants clearly outweigh the risks and people who legitimately need them should have access to them. Others argue that these powerful drugs are being over-prescribed especially to teenagers and children with disastrous results. Critics also claim that these drugs are being unnecessarily prescribed to patients with only mild or borderline-moderate depression.
The information in this Newsletter pertains primarily to the antidepressants Prozac, Paxil, Zoloft, Zyprexa, Effexor, Serzone, Wellbutrin, Lexapro, and Seroquel. (Serzone was removed from the U.S. market in May 2004 after being linked to 26 deaths from liver damage.)
If you are currently taking an antidepressant and have any concerns about the safety or side effects of the drug you should consult your physician immediately. Since there are risks associated with the sudden withdrawal from many of these drugs, you should only stop taking them under medical supervision.
Antidepressants are approved to treat depression and sometimes depression can include preexisting suicidal tendencies. However, new studies have shown that some antidepressants may actually raise the risk of suicide. A large-scale study of 702 controlled clinical trials involving 87,650 patients helped to shed light on the suicide risk by looking at patients being treated for a variety of conditions such as sexual dysfunction, bulimia, panic disorder, and depression.
The examination of these trials indicated that adults taking popular antidepressants such as Prozac, Paxil, and Zoloft are more than twice as likely to attempt suicide patients in the placebo groups.
This study, conducted by Dr. Dean Fergusson, an epidemiologist, and his colleagues at the Ottawa Health Institute, is considered to be a breakthrough as it examined patients receiving treatment for a variety of conditions. There was evidence of an increased risk of suicide attempts for patients with various psychological disorders including depression.
In an interview, Dr. Fergusson said: “The biggest concern is these drugs are widely prescribed. There are millions of people on the drugs, so even a risk of one in a 1,000 when you amplify it to the millions, it becomes a public health issue.”
The increased suicide risk does not only apply to adults. Studies released prior to the Ottawa Health Institute study indicated that some antidepressants, specifically Prozac, may actually cause an increased risk of suicide or attempted suicide in children and teenagers. There have been several court cases in the last five years relating to suicidal or violent behavior carried out by children or adolescents who were placed on anti-depressants. While Prozac has been approved for treatment in children and adolescents, parents must be extremely cautious when considering any antidepressant as an option for a child younger than 18.
Cases Many Experts Believe Are Linked to Antidepressants
While many argue the risk of suicide or violence towards others is not enough to prevent antidepressants from being prescribed, there many are families who have dealt with suicides or murders of loved ones which several experts believe were directly linked to the use of antidepressant medication.
• In the spring of 2005, teenager Jeff Weise shot nine people before shooting himself in what headlines called the worst school shooting rampage since Columbine. A debate ensued over whether his antidepressant, Prozac, rather than depression itself was the cause of this suicidal behavior towards himself and his classmates. Relatives say that doctors kept “upping” Weise’s dosage until as recently as three weeks prior to the shooting. Previously, Weise had been hospitalized for three days following an unsuccessful suicide attempt.
• In the late 1980s, when Prozac had just been approved by the FDA, Joseph Wesbecker shot and killed himself and eight others and wounded 12 while taking the medication. Wesbecker’s relatives sued manufacturer Eli Lilly for damages. Although the case was settled, it began to raise serious questions concerning the pre-approval research connected with Prozac.
• Former San Diego Deputy Sheriff Hank Adams shot his wife and himself to death in front of his seventeen-year-old daughter. Adams, who was taking Prozac, had no history of violence
• Rock and Roll legend Del Shannon (Charles Westover) was attempting a comeback in 1990. After seeing a psychiatrist, he committed suicide by shooting himself in the head with a .22 caliber rifle. He had been taking Prozac for 15 days.
• A 60-year-old man named Donald Schell began taking Paxil to treat depression. He took his first two pills before shooting and killing his wife, his daughter, his 9-month old granddaughter, and himself. Family members sued manufacturers GlaxoSmithKline and won a total of $6.4 million.
• In 2001, Christopher Pittman, 12, killed his grandparents. Despite his age, local prosecutors decided to try him as an adult and portray him as a troubled killer. The defense, however, claims that the killings occurred due to a reaction from his antidepressant, Zoloft, which Christopher had started taking not long before the incident. Although a jury rejected the defense, many experts believe there was a link between Zoloft and the killings.
A Marketing “Loophole”
Although a drug can only be marketed for specific indications endorsed by the FDA, federal law permits doctors to prescribe an FDA-approved drug for any use. This has led to many antidepressants being prescribed to children despite the fact that only Prozac has FDA approval to be marketed for that use. It has also led to all of the antidepressants being used to treat patients with disorders for which the drugs are not approved for marketing. Experts also argue that this loophole has led to over prescribing of antidepressants to patients with mild levels of psychological disorders for which the drugs were never intended.
Recently, the FDA rejected an application by Forest Laboratories to market the antidepressant Lexapro for the treatment of social anxiety disorder. An application to market Lexapro for panic disorder was previously rejected by the FDA. These rejections may prohibit Lexapro from being marketed for anxiety or panic disorders but it cannot prevent it from being prescribed for them. There are many critics of the FDA who see this as an anomaly which must be corrected in order to avoid potentially serious consequences to patients who believe a drug is approved for their illness simply because their doctor has prescribed it.
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Daughters Will Make It, With Help From Their Friends : Benefit: UCI recruit and four younger sisters survived a family tragedy. Now, San Diego Chargers have helped organize a fund-raiser for them — (Los Angeles Times)
By T.J. SIMERS, TIMES STAFF WRITER
JUNE 15, 199112 AM
SAN DIEGO — She says it must be difficult for some people to know what to say, but Christina Adams wants people to meet five happy girls at tonight’s basketball game for their benefit.
“That’s the way we are,” she said. “We’re not going to be tortured the rest of our lives, because the five of us are together, and what our parents taught us before this happened is going to help.”
It has been a little more than two months since Hank Adams shot and killed his wife, Theresa, and then himself. Left behind were the five Adams children: Christina, 18; Katie, 12; Kelly, 5, and twins Erin and Ashley, 4.
Mother’s Day has come and gone, and it was not easy, and their dad’s recent birthday stirred further emotions. Little Kelly’s graduation from kindergarten was another jarring reminder, and now, on the eve of Father’s Day, they will gather at Grossmont College in El Cajon to embrace the help and support of friends and relatives. Members of the San Diego Chargers and media will meet in a benefit basketball game at 7.
“Saturday night will be fun,” Christina said. “But Father’s Day will be just another day and something to deal with. It’s what I do every day. I have to. I’m not going to go and hide for the day. I may at times get sad, but I’m not going to be crying the whole day and saying I can’t deal with this.”
The athlete is talking–the 5-foot-6, tough-minded basketball performer who carved out a stellar career and a scholarship to UC Irvine by steadfastly refusing to give ground. She has her dark moments, she said, but they will be her own. What matters now, she said, is moving on.
“When I first found out that it was as bad as it could be and both of my parents were gone, I said, ‘OK, I have no control over this.’ It sounds totally cold, but I had no control.
“All I have control over now is what I’m going to do and what is going to happen with the girls. Living with that in mind has helped me. Sure, it’s also out there every day. . . . What could I have done? Maybe I could’ve. . . . I should have. . . . I don’t know. I’m just trying to be smart.”
Until all this happened, Christina Adams was just a carefree teen-ager with a reputation for being the girls’ No. 1 three-point shooter in the nation and one of the best basketball players in San Diego County.
Now, as she said, “I’ve had to grow up a lot faster than maybe I should have.”
Two months ago, Helen Adams had no inkling she was going to trade her two-door car for a seven-seat station wagon.
Helen and Steve Adams, aunt and uncle, have been married about a year and a half. Now they have five children living in their home. In addition to filing for legal guardianship of the Adams’ children, they have begun a crash course in parenting.
“Excuse me,” Helen said. “Kelly, go wipe the lasagna from your face.
“One thing you learn quickly is that little ones need constant attention. But these are good kids, and it says a lot for Hank and Terry.
“Of course, we can’t be the same parents that Hank and Terry were, but we’re trying to provide a loving and stable home for the girls. We had our scary moments in the beginning, you know with nightmares and all, but everybody’s adjusting well now.”
Friends and relatives responded immediately to the girls’ needs, but as Helen said, “we’ve got five weddings, three sets of braces and four more college educations ahead of us. It’s kind of sad, kind of happy, a lot of love and a little bit of everything to consider.”
Seventh-grader Katie has been elected commissioner of spirit for next year’s final year at Our Lady of Grace in El Cajon, and while that presents obvious travel problems each day from Steve and Helen’s home in Del Mar, the present plan is to work it out.
“Her whole life has been turned around, and that’s the one stable thing in her life right now,” Christina said. “You know how important that eighth-grade year is.
“With Steve and Helen, it all came down to what was going to be the most normal situation for all the kids. It’s the same last name. And my uncle Steve is similar to my dad–in a lot of ways different–but still like my dad.”
There was speculation early on that Christina Adams would decline her athletic scholarship to UC Irvine and remain in San Diego to care for her sisters.
But she will attend UC Irvine, and she will play basketball.
“It’s what my mom and dad would want me to do,” she said. “I know the girls will be taken care of; that was my No. 1 concern.
“I worry about starting my season and not having my dad . . . but my grandpa is going to be one radical fan. You would know him from my high school games, he was the one yelling the loudest and my dad probably had to tell him to sit down.”
Hank Adams put the basketball in Christina’s hands in sixth grade and stoked the competitive fire that pushed her to excel.
She averaged a state-record 38.3 points as a junior at Grossmont High School under the tutelage of Coach Frank Foggiano, but after speaking out on behalf of a fired Foggiano at season’s end, she was forced to transfer to Granite Hills.
“In the last year, it seems like things kept getting thrown on me,” she said. “I’ve been thinking that may have been for a reason–to prepare me for this.
“I thought Mr. Foggiano’s firing was bad. I thought the fact I couldn’t play at Grossmont, that’s bad. I thought the basketball situation at Granite Hills, that’s bad. When my parents separated I couldn’t even . . . I mean I said to myself, what’s going on, and then this terrible thing happened.
“I’m waiting for one more bad thing to happen. I’m going to break my leg. I’m serious, I’m just waiting for one more bad thing to happen.”
Anyone who has watched Christina Adams dribble the basketball against a defense solely designed to stop her will understand.
“I don’t want people looking at me and saying, ‘Oh, that poor girl,’ ” she said. “I know now there’s nothing too hard. If there was, it would have happened to me two months ago. You can’t explain how hard it is, but Mom and Dad raised me to be strong.
“Maybe if I didn’t have close friends and such a tight family, I might have crumbled and said I can’t take it anymore. But I’m not by myself. Two very important people are no longer with me, but I’m not by myself.”
No, she’s not. Charger Coach Dan Henning doesn’t know Christina Adams, but he knows the value and benefit of an athletic scholarship. And when he heard of her plight, he didn’t wait to be asked.
“Just tell me what you want me to do to help,” Henning said.
Henning agreed to coach the media, risking another loss on his record. Bill Walton will coach the Chargers.
Charger quarterback Billy Joe Tolliver took himself out of Neil Lomax’s golf tournament in Oregon to stay here and raise money.
“No big deal,” Tolliver said. “It’s just a chance to help our own in San Diego.”
Controversial defensive lineman Burt Grossman, who delayed his vacation to participate, says, “I’m helping because oftentimes we’re asked to speak to the Lions Club or the young jerks of America or whatever. But rarely do you get the chance to help somebody firsthand. And rather than entertain some yahoo organization, this is a chance to really get something done.”
A company not only offers to donate T-shirts for the game, but takes the time to design a uniform “For The Kids” logo. A ‘50s and ‘60s band will have no stage and no room to perform, but they will find a way, they say.
The list of donors, including overtime help from the Chargers’ public relations staff and Grossmont College, is as long as the list of Charger players who have volunteered to rough up the media.
Charger owner Alex Spanos received cooperation from Continental Airlines to offer an all-expenses-paid trip to Denver for the Chargers’ Sept. 22 game as a raffle prize and will pay $100 for every three-point shot made in 60 seconds by the Charger of Walton’s choice and the media representative of Henning’s picking.
If the designated media player hits more three-pointers than the player for the Chargers, Spanos said he will donate another $500 to the children’s fund.
“Why are they doing this for us?” Christina Adams wanted to know. “It’s exciting; it’s just unbelievable. I want to write something to thank everybody.”
Two hours later she returned with a written thank you; it will be part of an eight-page program for the basketball game.
“You think about all the people who have helped, and we lucked out,” Christina said. “That’s why I’m bringing the girls to the game. They won’t really understand, but I want to be able to tell them later this is what everybody did. ‘And you were there to see it.’ ”
The question is there: How does Christina Adams feel about her father?
“A lot of people wonder about that,” Christina said. “I have one aunt who was really close to my mom, and so with good reason she hates my dad. But what I told her is you have to understand, yeah, my dad did this, but before this he was my dad.
“But everything he did for me was not taken away because of this. Not everybody knows what was going on with my dad and what medication he was taking. Nobody knows, but I do. I know how he was for 18 years and not just that incident.
“I don’t want people to think this was an everyday thing. We weren’t a weird family. We were a close family until this. . . .”