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The Indy Star
By Jeff Swiatek, firstname.lastname@example.org
November 22, 2003
The first wrongful-death lawsuit against a generic Prozac manufacturer was filed Friday, charging Barr Laboratories with failing to warn that its generic antidepressant may have dangerous side effects.
The 23-page complaint, which also names Eli Lilly and Co. as a defendant, was filed in U.S. District Court in Seattle, said Andy Vickery, a Houston attorney. The plaintiff is Yvonne A’Rae Laisure-Radke, the widow of Douglas K. Radke, an officer in Whatcom County Sheriff’s Department in Washington, who shot himself in the head in November 2001.
At the time, Radke was taking a generic form of Prozac made by Barr, Vickery said. The lawsuit also names Lilly, he said, because Radke initially was prescribed the brand-name Prozac, switching to the generic in August 2001 when Barr began selling it.
Vickery, who has handled more than a dozen lawsuits against Lilly over Prozac, said, “If generics are going to play in the big leagues . . . then they are going to have to step up to the bar as Lilly has done and pay out substantial settlements” for wrongful-death cases or litigate them.
Vickery has settled out of court in most of the cases he has handled against Lilly. The Indianapolis drugmaker brought Prozac to the market in 1987 and lost U.S. patent protection on it in August 2001 after a legal challenge by Barr. Barr, of Pomona, N.Y., was the first U.S. seller of generic Prozac. Today, many other companies offer the cheaper generic versions. “We believe our product is safe and effective,” said Barr spokeswoman Carol Cox. She declined to comment on the lawsuit because she said company officials hadn’t seen it.
Radke shot himself in Kansas at age 44, writing in a suicide note that said: “I have been hearing voices for some time and they have gotten worse — now controlling me,” Vickery reported. Radke was prescribed Prozac by his family doctor for mild depression, Vickery said.
The lawsuit says that Barr and Lilly “have steadfastly refused to provide any warning about a potentially increased risk of suicide” among some Prozac users.
In 2001, Barr Chairman Bruce Downey said Barr wouldn’t post such a warning on its generic product.
“I am not going to be intimidated by the fact that there might be product-liability cases,” he said then.
Call Star reporter Jeff Swiatek at 1-317-444-6483.