Lawsuit Alleges Inadequate Label Warning on Common Antidepressant Drug

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A Chicago woman alleges that prescription antidepressant pills her husband took in the days before his death did not alleviate his anxiety but triggered his suicide.

The lawsuit alleges that the warning on the bottle of generic Paxil (paroxetine) the man took was inadequate because it did not warn of the increased the risk of suicidal thoughts for adults over the age of 24. The suit also alleges that Paxil maker GlaxoSmithKline has known of this risk for years and has suppressed warnings, Chicago television station NBC5 reports.

The attorney representing the widow said that many who claim they were harmed by insufficient warnings on generic drugs, find themselves caught between the producer of the generic and the producer of the brand name drug. By law, generic drug makers are not permitted to change the drug’s label: they must duplicate the brand name maker’s label word for word, NBC5 reports. When a consumer alleges harm from a generic drug, the generic maker can say it is not responsible for the insufficient warning and the brand name maker can say it did not produce the medication.

The man who died experienced akathisia, a little known side effect connected to some Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRI’s) prescribed to treat depression and anxiety. A pharmaceutical expert said the restlessness and agitation can be so intense that “death can be a welcome result,” according to NBC5. The widow said that if she and her husband had been aware of akathisia and its warning signs, they could have taken action to stop the medication.

Many such lawsuits against both the brand name maker and the generic maker are dismissed, but in February, the case against GSK was allowed to go forward, and is scheduled to go to court in mid-June, NBC5 says.