Suicide Blamed on Apotex’ Generic Paxil — (The Judicial View)

SSRI Ed note: Family of man who died by suicide after taking paroxetine files lawsuit but fails to get expert who could testify that the drug probably caused the suicide.

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The Judicial View

Smith v. GlaxoSmithKline Corp., Slip Copy, 2008 WL 4938426 (E.D. La., Nov. 17, 2008)

After taking a generic version of Paxil for depression, Brian Smith committed suicide in July, 2004. Records demonstrated that Smith had used this generic drug in the past, as well as numerous other medications since having suffered a work related accident in 1999. On June 17, 2004, Smith filled a prescription of thirty tablets of paroxetine hydrochloride, the generic of Paxil, and on July 3, 2004, he committed suicide. Apotex manufactured the generic drug.

Smith’s heirs sued for failure to warn of the risk of suicidal reactions caused by paroxetine hydrochloride, under the Louisiana Product Liability Act. The lawsuit was first filed against Paxil manufacturer GlaxoSmithKline Corp., with Apotex being substituted after discovery that Smith had ingested the generic drug. Apotex moved to dismiss under federal preemption and that motion was denied. Apotex then moved for summary judgment on the grounds that Smith could not demonstrate causation.

The District Court noted that under Louisiana law, a plaintiff bears the burden of demonstrating by a preponderance of the evidence a causal relationship between the injury and the use of the product. The Court held that here, plaintiffs were required to demonstrate causation through expert testimony because medical causation of this nature is something not within the common knowledge of jurors.

With deadlines already passed, Smith provided the Court with no expert witness listed, and no expert report, to demonstrate causation between his suicide and his ingestion of paroxetine hydrochloride. Therefore, the Court held that Apotex was entitled to judgment as a matter of law on its motion for summary judgment.

Summary judgment was granted in favor of Apotex and Smith’s complaint was dismissed with prejudice.