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July 25th, 2006
By David Voreacos
July 25 (Bloomberg) — Forest Laboratories Inc. was sued by a Utah woman who blames the suicide of her 11-year-old daughter on the company’s antidepressant Lexapro.
Rachel Caddy hanged herself from a tree behind her apartment in Bountiful, Utah, on July 22, 2004, after taking Lexapro for several weeks for depression and defiance toward authority figures, according to a federal lawsuit filed July 21 in Newark, New Jersey.
“It’s the youngest case that we know of involving a suicide attempt while taking Lexapro,” said Harris Pogust, an attorney for Caddy’s mother, Jolie Simmons. Pogust is with the firm Pogust & Braslow in Conshohocken, Pennsylvania.
The lawsuit is one of about two dozen claiming that Lexapro or Celexa, another antidepressant made by Forest, caused patients to attempt or commit suicide. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration ordered drugmakers in 2004 to warn users of increased suicidal behavior by children who take antidepressants. Lexapro accounted for 63 percent of Forest’s $2.96 billion of revenue in the fiscal year through March.
Charles Triano, a spokesman for New York-based Forest, declined to comment.
Forest said in its annual report on June 14 that about 25 federal lawsuits over Lexapro or Celexa had been consolidated before U.S. District Judge Rodney Sippel in St. Louis.
In court papers filed June 30, Forest said 13 lawsuits claim suicides related to Lexapro, six claim suicides by Celexa users, and four claim attempted suicides by users of either drug.
“Forest passionately believes those two medications improve and save the lives of many thousands of people,” wrote Forest attorneys Joseph P. Thomas and John R. Ipsaro of Ulmer & Berne in Cincinnati.
“Forest submits that, viewed dispassionately and objectively, there is no basis for concluding that any decedent took his or her life because he or she took an antidepressant,” Thomas and Ipsaro wrote. “Rather, each individual case evidences a troubled life that ended tragically.”
Rachel Caddy experienced behavioral problems from an early age and was diagnosed with depression and oppositional defiant disorder, according to Simmons’s suit.
In early 2004, while in fifth grade, she struggled to concentrate in school and exhibited anger, moodiness and frustration, the suit said. She got counseling at the Davis Behavioral Health facility in Bountiful, where a nurse practitioner prescribed 10 milligrams daily of Lexapro, according to the suit.
“Rachel became increasingly agitated, irritable, and more depressed” and stopped taking the drug, the suit said. Simmons says that in early July 2004, she began a “chart system” to reward the girl for taking the drug.
“Unbeknownst to her family, over the course of the next three weeks, Rachel began to suffer from suicidal ideation and expressed thoughts about hurting herself,” the suit said.
The lawsuit claims that Forest failed to warn of the risks of Lexapro, defectively designed the drug, and violated consumer protection laws in New Jersey and Utah. Forest has a division in Jersey City, New Jersey, the suit said. It seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages in excess of $75,000.
Shares of Forest rose 75 cents today to $45.33 in New York Stock Exchange composite trading.
The lawsuit is Jolie Simmons v. Forest Laboratories, District of New Jersey (Newark), 06cr3328.