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Paxil is a Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor (SSRI) class antidepressant linked to serious side effects since its debut in 1992, despite bringing billions of dollars in sales for manufacturer GlaxoSmithKline. A few of the issues brought up in court filings include:
- Birth defects in children when taken during pregnancy – Women who use Paxil just before pregnancy or during the first trimester have double or even triple the risk of having a baby with serious birth defects like anencephaly, atrial septal defects, persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn, abdominal defects, ventricular septal defects and respiratory distress that are life-changing and often life-threatening.
- Increased suicide risk when taken by children and adolescents – Fourteen years after a major study concluded that Paxil was safe for teenagers, a 2015 re-analysis of the same data found that there were actually 11 Paxil users linked to suicidal or self-harming behaviors, compared to only one person in the placebo group.
- Increased incidence in withdrawal and addiction symptoms in adults – Though no studies have linked Paxil with addiction or withdrawal, the company has settled more than 3,200 lawsuits linked to reports that patients “cannot get off” the drug once they start using it. Common complaints after stopping the drug included: anxiety, insomnia, dizziness, fatigue, headaches, irritability, and nausea.
- Paxil withdrawal settlements: MDL 1574 consolidated in the Central District of California contained 1,574 plaintiffs as of January 2006. The MDL was closed in settlement a month later, with each plaintiff receiving about $50,000. All told, GSK paid $160 million to settle 3,200 withdrawal symptom lawsuits.
- Paxil suicide settlements: GSK agreed to pay an average of $300,000 to resolve 300 attempted suicide cases and an average of $2 million in 150 suicide cases.
- Paxil birth defect settlements: After the first bellwether trial, GSK agreed to settle more than 800 claims for over $1 billion, with an average payout of $1.25 million per case.
- Paxil punitive settlement: GSK also paid $2.5 million to New York to resolve claims that they withheld safety data pertaining to the antidepressant’s effect on children.
Don’t Pay Unless You Win
When there are so many similar cases brought against a pharmaceutical company, they are often streamlined into Multi-District Litigation to eliminate duplicative discovery, conserve resources and maintain consistency.
Several past MDLs concerned Paxil lawsuits:
- Paxil withdrawal symptom litigation: MDL 1574 consolidated in the Central District of California contained 1,574 plaintiffs as of January 2006. The MDL was closed in settlement a month later, with each plaintiff receiving $50,000. All told, GSK paid $160 million to settle 3,200 withdrawal symptom lawsuits.
- Paxil suicide litigation: Currently, there is no history of mass tort filings related to the Paxil / suicide connection. The individual lawsuits filed must be tried or settled on a case-by-case basis.
- Paxil birth defect litigation: Paxil birth defect cases sprung up all around the country, but most wound up consolidated into a mass tort in the Common Pleas Court in Philadelphia. As of July 2010, 800 plaintiffs had settled for an average of $1.2 million per case, but there were still 100 lawsuits pending in Philadelphia. Several bellwether trials were scheduled, but many of the remaining cases were de-consolidated.
Latest updates on Paxil litigation
Though many cases have been settled and past MDLs closed, new Paxil cases may arise due to studies published in the British Medical Journal in 2015. One study – a re-analysis of data collected in the nineties and published back in 2001– verified the suspected link between Paxil and suicide risk among adolescents.
Another study found that women who took Prozac and Paxil early in their pregnancies had a 2 to 3.5 greater risk of having a child with birth defects. “Paxil use was associated with a defect in which a baby’s intestines protrude outside the body and with anencephaly, in which a baby is missing parts of the brain and skull, the study found,” reports the NY Daily News. Both antidepressants were also linked to increased incidence in heart defects.
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