GSK fends off wrongful death case alleging Paxil led to abortion

GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK), maker of antidepressant Paxil, has settled much, but not all, of the litigation tied to the health effects on newborns whose mothers took the drug during pregnancy. The drugmaker has now won a wrongful death case in Pennsylvania brought by a woman who said she aborted after she was told her fetus had congenital heart defects.

A three-judge Superior Court panel in Philadelphia upheld a summary judgment in favor of GlaxoSmithKline in the complaint filed by plaintiff Joanne Thomas on behalf of her deceased child. Thomas' doctor did not give a reason for the defects when they were found in 2001. Thomas said she learned 6 years later during nursing studies that they might have been tied to the Paxil she took when she was pregnant. The court found she could not prove the fetus was viable when she had the pregnancy terminated.

In 2009, Glaxo lost a case that claimed it did not do enough to warn mothers of potential dangers of taking the drug during pregnancy. The next year it paid more than $1 billion to settle 800 similar suits in the U.S., putting much of the litigation behind it. But late last year, a court in Canada granted class-action status to a case that made similar claims, raising the chance of a new round of legal worries tied to the drug.

The drugmaker has made other payments for its marketing of the antidepressant. Part of its massive $3 billion settlement with U.S. authorities last year was tied to allegations it had touted Paxil for off-label use in children and adolescents, despite data that failed to show that it was effective for kids.

- read the Pennsylvania Record story

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