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Antidepressant Lawsuits

The Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitior (SSRI) class of antidepressants first hit the market in 1988 with the brand name Prozac. Since then, more than 40 million people have been prescribed Prozac for depression. Even more people are on similar drugs like Effexor, Lexapro, Paxil and Zoloft. By 2005, SSRIs were the most widely prescribed drugs in the United States. Yet, as the growing number of antidepressant lawsuits indicates, some patients experience SSRI side effects that are worse than the conditions the drugs are prescribed to treat.SSRI hip lawsuit couthouse

What are SSRI antidepressants?

SSRIs exploded on the market as a third-generation solution, promising better efficiency for serious cases of depression and fewer side effects. In addition to depression, they can also be prescribed as a treatment for anxiety, panic attacks, obsessive-compulsive disorders, eating disorders, and personality disorders. They work by blocking the body’s re-absorption of the “feel good” brain chemical serotonin, thereby increasing the overall supply.

Serious antidepressant side effects

According to the UK National Health Service, one in 10 users experienced common side effects such as: sickness, low sex drive, sexual dysfunction, blurred vision, bowel irregularities, dizziness, dry mouth, agitation, sleep disturbances, loss of appetite, or excessive sweating.

More serious side effects were reported to the Food and Drug Administration, prompting public health officials to issue several warnings regarding the safety of SSRI antidepressants. In 2004, they required manufacturers to include a black-box warning that these drugs may increase the risk of suicide in children and adolescents.

Two years later, this warning was expanded to include individuals 24 and younger. That same year, the FDA issued advisories that the drug should not be combined with Triptan medications for migraines, as the drugs interacted to create high blood pressure, hyperthermia, fever, increased heart rate, and shock.

The FDA issued a further public health advisory cautioning that there may be a link between SSRI use and a serious birth defect called Persistent Pulmonary Hypertension of the Newborn (PPHN). Babies with this condition cannot adjust to breathing outside the womb and require the help of a ventilator. Ten percent of cases are fatal. Even though a National Institutes of Health study found that taking an antidepressant during pregnancy correlates with a six-fold increased risk of PPHN, the FDA said the connection is still being determined.

Antidepressant lawsuits

Several high-profile cases involving heinous crimes and SSRI antidepressants focused media attention on the undisclosed risks of these drugs, and subsequently led to mass antidepressant lawsuit filings. In 1998, Brynn Hartman – the wife of Saturday Night Live comedian Phil Hartman – killed her husband and herself while taking Zoloft. Her family sued manufacturer Pfizer for wrongful death and received an undisclosed settlement outside of court. The following year, it was uncovered that Eric Harris, one of the Columbine High School shooters, had been taking Zoloft. His parents sued the manufacturer, alleging that their son had become obsessed with violence and suicide within weeks of starting the medication.

Prozac lawsuits

Emerging Prozac lawsuit complaints of suicidal thoughts and violence were consolidated into the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana in 1992. By 2000, Eli Lilly had resolved more than 30 lawsuits, paying at least $50 million in settlements. Soon thereafter, plaintiffs began coming forward with stories of mothers who used Prozac during pregnant and gave birth to children with anencephaly, lung defects, cranial defects, limb malformations and congenital heart problems. Currently, there is no MDL (multidistrict litigation) for Prozac birth defect lawsuits, but Federal Judge Rebecca F. Doherty agreed with Magistrate Judge C. Michael Hill that there is sufficient evidence of potential manufacturer negligence for the first plaintiff’s case to move forward in Louisiana.

Effexor lawsuits

Effexor lawsuits claim the drug caused suicidal thoughts, violent tendencies and withdrawal symptoms. In other lawsuits, women say they gave birth to children with birth defects like cleft palates or congenital abnormalities. This year, at least 14 Effexor antidepressant lawsuits were consolidated into multidistrict litigation under Judge Cynthia M. Rufe in the U.S. District Court of Eastern Pennsylvania. Trials are still pending.

Lexapro lawsuits

Forest Laboratories is facing more than 57 Lexapro antidepressant lawsuits — revolving around claims of suicidal tendencies — consolidated in federal court in Missouri. At least nine other cases have been filed in Massachusetts, alleging that the company illegally marketed Lexapro to pediatric patients, despite knowing the product caused an increased risk of suicide. In 2010, the company admitted to deceptive marketing practices and paid over $300 million in a federal criminal lawsuit settlement. Women have come forward with claims of birth defects related to Celexa and Lexapro. These cases have been consolidated in Cole County, Missouri with the first trials scheduled for May 2014.

Paxil lawsuits

The first Paxil lawsuit was filed in 2001 and went to trial in September 2009. Plaintiff Michelle David and her young son sued the manufacturer for failure to warn about the risk of birth defects. The child was born with severe heart malformations that required multiple open-hear surgeries during the first six months of his life. The jury agreed that GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) was negligent and awarded the family $2.5 million. In December 2003, more than 1,500 Paxil antidepressant lawsuits were consolidated in the Central District Court of Los Angeles. By 2008, GSK reported that they had settled 3,200 cases for an average of $50,000.

In addition to the birth defects cases, a Paxil suicide case went to trial in June 2001, resulting in an $8 million verdict in favor of the plaintiff. It’s been estimated the manufacturer has paid over $390 million in Paxil-related settlements or verdicts since then. On top of that, they paid consumer watchdog Public Citizen a $63.8 million settlement in a class action lawsuit for their failure to warn of the dangers of Paxil use in children under 18. Over the years, they have paid over $100 million for defrauding Medicare, fraudulently suppressing research and illegally marketing their drug.

Zoloft lawsuits

Last year, more than 370 Zoloft birth defect lawsuits were consolidated in federal court in Pennsylvania under U.S. District Judge Cynthia M. Rufe. Status conferences are ongoing. Meanwhile, another group of cases are clustered in the Wayne County Circuit Court in Virginia, where adults have filed claims of pain and suffering related to their own birth defects as a result of their mothers taking Zoloft while pregnant. The first bellwether trials are set for October 2014.

Antidepressant lawyers

Individuals who feel they may have been harmed by SSRI antidepressants can begin the process of filing litigation by contacting an experienced attorney. Drug companies have a vast arsenal of resources to pour into these cases, which makes them very challenging to litigate alone. With in-depth knowledge of all previous antidepressant lawsuit settlements and verdicts, a personal injury law firm can assemble the correct evidence, documentation and expert testimony needed to win a complex case such as this. No one should have to suffer from the negligence of a drug-maker who put profits before people.