GlaxoSmithKline came up short in efforts to convince a jury that it shouldn’t be liable for a Chicago lawyer’s 2010 suicide while he was on generic Paxil. On Thursday, jurors sided with the man’s widow, Wendy Dolin, and awarded a $3 million verdict against the drugmaker.
Throughout the trial, Dolin’s attorneys argued that Paxil’s label indicating suicide risks stop at age 24 is flawed, and that Glaxo held a responsibility to inform of the risks. Since generic drugmakers duplicate drug labels for their copycats, Glaxo was at fault in this case, they argued. And the jury agreed.
A spokesperson for GSK said the company is “disappointed” with the verdict and will appeal.
“GSK maintains that because it did not manufacture or market the medicine ingested by Mr. Dolin, it should not be liable,” the company’s spokesperson said. “Additionally, the Paxil label provided complete and adequate warnings during the time period relevant to this lawsuit.”
The award fell far short of the $39 million that Dolin's lawyers sought in the case, which turned, in part, on the long debate over whether branded drugmakers should be held responsible in cases where patients took generics.
Because makers of generics simply copy labels from their branded counterparts, the Supreme Court has ruled that they can’t be held liable for failing to disclose risks. It’s up to branded pharmas to update their labels to reflect risks, and then generics makers can follow.
All together, the situation has empowered lawyers to take on branded pharma when knockoffs are suspected of causing harm. Dolin’s legal action initially included claims against Mylan, which manufactured the antidepressant Stewart Dolin took before his death, but a judge dismissed that portion of the lawsuit. Last year, the FDA delayed a decision on whether generics makers should hold more responsibility in warning about drug risks.
Brent Wisner, an attorney for the plaintiff, said the team feels “justice has been served,” adding that they are “hopeful this verdict will result in a labeling change to warn that people of all ages are at risk.”
“Brand drug manufacturers have the ability and responsibility to make their drug labels accurate,” Wisner continued. “If you create a drug and know that it poses serious risks, regardless of whether consumers use the brand name or generic version of that drug, you have a duty to warn.”