So, myself and my friend Stephanie were in Chicago this week. We had traveled across the Atlantic to hear the opening arguments of Dolin v. Smithkline Beecham Corp (now GlaxoSmithKline – GSK). For more background to this case, see here.
We arrived straight into an unprecedented weather event, Storm Stella – described in the media as a weather bomb, having undergone bombogenesis (haven’t a clue either). Thus, while we were a little worried that the trial might be postponed, we were more concerned with the liklihood of two Irish females freezing to death. However, despite hitting a cool minus-8, with some pretty bizarre white-out conditions, we survived and the trial went ahead as planned (with the Hon. William T. Hart presiding).
This case centers on Wendy Dolin, the plaintiff, alleging that her husband’s death in 2010 was drug-induced and that GSK failed to warn of the increased risk of suicide in older adults taking the antidepressant Paroxetine. Her lawyers, Baum Hedlund, contend that GSK hid a ‘dirty little secret’ – that the drug can cause akathisia, often coded under the innocuously-sounding ‘inner turmoil’. However, this drug-induced condition is far from harmless and injury to oneself and/or others, can quickly follow. Furthermore, as alleged in this case, it can often prove fatal; see here.
At the time of his death, Stewart Dolin was 57 and was a corporate lawyer with ReidSmith. While suffering from work-related stress, he was prescribed Paroxetine by his physician, Dr. Martin Sachman – a family friend. Paroxetine is perhaps more widely recognised by its trade name Paxil, or Seroxat in Europe. Six days after being prescribed a generic form of the drug, Stewart died by jumping in front of a Chicago train. He was affluent, well-liked by colleagues and well-loved by his family. Per one of his colleagues “Stu Dolin was a close personal friend, valued colleague and a great leader in our firm. His energy and spirit benefited everyone around him. The lawsuit claims that GSK failed to adequately warn doctors (including Dr. Sachman) of the increased risk of suicidal behavior in adults. Indeed, GSK’s opening argument proclaimed that ‘Paxil does not cause suicide’. That was then contradicted by GSK’s very own literature, where a 2006 analysis showed a 6.7 times greater risk of suicidal behaviour in adults (of all ages) taking Paxil, over placebo.
Doctor David Healy was on the stand for 2 full-days, as an expert witness for the plaintiff. His testimony included an account of how GSK had hidden suicide events from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), thus manipulating the suicide-ratio and effectively hiding the bodies. Explaining drug-induced suicides to the jury, his world-leading expert status in psychopharmacology was unquestionable. No doubt, GSK ‘s legal team will attempt to annihilate that particular status before he exposes any more ‘dirty little secrets’. Like how 100% of Paxil consumers will experience sexual dysfunction – another life changing adverse-effect he mentioned in court, and another one not precisely admitted to by the manufacturers.
Not surprisingly, GSK’s lawyers (King and Spalding), became increasingly apoplectic, interjecting every few minutes with their objections, which proved fascinating in itself. The last hour before the court adjourned for the week-end proved to be very enlightening indeed, with their team looking increasingly agitated. Doctor Healy was then asked some questions by the plaintiff’s legal team:
(1) Do you have any doubt that Paxil can cause suicide? He answered ‘No’.
(2) In your opinion, did GSK warn doctors of the increased risk of suicide in adults? Again he answered ‘No’.
There seemed little doubt to anyone listening that Paxil could cause Akathisia and/or a drug-induced suicide. However, no doubt GSK will have many experts to refute that, whatever the evidence has shown. Having listened to this week’s testimonies, there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that Steward Dolin’s death was induced by the Paxil he was taking in the final 6 days of his life. However, the trial will most-likely go on for another few weeks when the jury will ultimately decide. Sadly, as is normal in these legal cases, every aspect of Wendy and Stewart’s private life will be publicly torn to shreds, with their every move dissected to try and put doubt into the jury’s mind. Whatever the outcome, Stewart’s wife Wendy, is one very, very brave lady.
Clearly, GSK’s lawyers are particularly polished and well used to court proceedings. That said, following the jurys’ retirement for the weekend, there was a last minute crucial objection from their legal team. One of their lawyers raised a final grievance – that a lawyer for the plaintiff’s side had the cheek to say ‘have a good weekend’ to the jury. Seriously? Drug induced suicide was the issue here and this farewell gesture caused offence to GSK’s legal team?
Anyway, if you would like to see the three video depositions that were shown to the court; they were uploaded yesterday. You really don’t need to be a body language expert to determine how truthful these GSK experts are being – or not.