Wife of Orlando suicide victim suing Pfizer — (Orlando Sentinal)

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Orlando Sentinal

Nov 24, 2004

The wife of an Orlando suicide victim is suing Pfizer Inc. over its widely used antidepressant drug Zoloft, according to court records and the woman’s lawyer.

The lawsuit, filed Friday in state Circuit Court in Orlando by attorney David Paul, alleges that the man committed suicide two weeks after his family physician prescribed the drug for him, according to a news release sent from Paul’s office Tuesday evening.

Paul could not be reached for comment, and a copy of the suit could not be obtained.

According to the release, the suit makes “product liability and negligence” claims against the pharmaceutical giant, though it did not specify what damages the family was seeking.

The suit was filed by a Vickie Maile. Last year, 58-year-old Disney golf pro Kiti Maile — whose wife’s name was Vickie Maile — committed suicide, according to newspaper accounts.

According to the news release, the man’s family physician prescribed a “starter pack” of Zoloft for depression. But the man quit taking the drug after his family noticed “unusual behavior.” Soon after, he was hospitalized with chest pains, anxiety and insomnia. Hospital doctors put him back on the drug. Two days later, he committed suicide.

Maile could not be reached for comment late Tuesday. In addition to Pfizer, according to court records, the lawsuit also names as defendants Mid Florida Internal Medicine Group, Orlando Regional Healthcare System and its Sand Lake Hospital, Dr. Rajeev Sood and Dr. Sanjay P. Muttreja.

Joe Brown, a spokesman for Orlando Regional, said he had not heard of the lawsuit and could not comment on it.

Earlier this year, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration considered warning the public that patients taking antidepressants can become suicidal in the first weeks of therapy.

When the FDA issued its public health advisory last month, the warning it ordered be included with antidepressants states that the drugs could cause suicidal thoughts and actions in some children and teenagers.

The agency chose that wording because some studies have indicated that, while the overall risk is low, children and teenagers who take antidepressants appear twice as likely as those given placebos to become suicidal.

Zoloft and 31 other antidepressants on the FDA’s list are still approved for use in treating adults with depression, though the agency said it was continuing to study the risk of suicidal behavior in adults.

Wire services were used in this report. Sean Mussenden can be reached at 407-420-5664 or smussenden@orlandosentinel.com.