A jury in Wyoming found the British based drug company GlaxoSmithKline 80% responsible for a family murder – suicide committed by a patient taking a drug produced by the company. The drug was was an anti depressant marketed as Praxil in the United States and Seroxat in Britain.
According to the report published in the June 16, 2001 issue of the British Medical Journal, a 60 year old Wyoming man who was suffering from episodic depression but who was not showing any signs of homicidal or suicidal tendencies was prescribed the drug. Several years earlier he was given Prozac, but was taken off the drug because he became agitated.
In February of 1998 he was put on Praxil for mild depression. Within several weeks he then went on his murderous rampage. In the trial several experts were brought in to testify including Dr. David Healy, director of psychological medicine in Bangor, North Wales. Dr Healy testified that both his own research and the research of the drug maker GlaxoSmithKline both showed that a full 25% of healthy volunteers who were given this type of drug became “extremely agitated”. Dr Healy also testified that in his own studies of volunteers who were not depressed who were given these drugs that only 33% felt better while on the drug, while 33% felt worse, and 33% felt no change. However, two previously non-suicidal and non-depressed volunteers became suicidal and depressed while on the drug.
The jury in the Wyoming case awarded the surviving family $6.4 million and found that the drug company was 80% responsible for the deaths. This court decision is the first time that a drug company has been held responsible for suicidal and homicidal actions of patients who were using it’s product. Representatives of GlaxoSmithKline said that they were surprised by the verdict and continue to state the drug is safe.