attorney for the state of New York filed a lawsuit Wednesday
against an international drug maker, accusing the company of
concealing important information about the safety and
effectiveness of an antidepressant.
Attorney General Eliot Spitzer's lawsuit against
GlaxoSmithKline, the maker of Paxil, comes a day after
attorneys for a boy charged with double murder in Chester
County began arguing that confidential documents from another
drug manufacturer should be made available for his
Lawyers for Christopher Pittman, charged with killing his
grandparents in November 2001, are seeking concealed internal
memos and documents from Pfizer. They allege these documents
will help prove an adverse reaction to the antidepressant
Zoloft led to Pittman's violent behavior.
Their efforts to get those documents made available will
continue during pretrial hearings June 10. Pittman's trial is
scheduled to begin June 14.
On Wednesday, Pittman's attorneys said Spitzer's action
could not have come at a better time.
"I just wish he would have included Pfizer in there as
well," said Andy Vickery, a Houston-based attorney helping
with Pittman's defense. "As far as being evasive ...
GlaxoSmithKline doesn't hold a candle to Pfizer."
Karen Barth Menzies, a Los Angeles-based attorney also part
of the Pittman defense team, said in a written statement:
"There is no difference between what GSK (GlaxoSmithKline) has
done regarding Paxil and what Pfizer has done related to
Zoloft. Quite frankly, there has been a huge fraud perpetrated
against the public by these companies. ...
"We have been trying for years to raise public awareness
about these issues because we have seen, through our
litigation, the secret internal company documents that no one
ever gets to see, not even the FDA. Even now, we are
prohibited, due to confidentiality orders, from disclosing
these documents. But, you can only hide the truth for so long.
Too many people have been harmed by these drugs, too many
lives have been shattered."
Spitzer's lawsuit alleges that GSK practiced "repeated and
persistent" fraud by withholding negative information and
misrepresenting information about the drug's safety and
effectiveness in treating depression in children and
adolescents. The company told its sales representatives,
according to the lawsuit, that Paxil had "remarkable efficacy
and safety in the treatment of adolescent depression" when its
own trials showed the drug may increase risks of suicidal
thoughts or acts in some juveniles.
The suit seeks for Glaxo to give up profits made in New
York from sales of Paxil to treat depression in juvenile
In a press release, Spitzer stated: "Doctors should have
access to all scientifically sound information so that they
can prescribe appropriate medication for their patients. By
concealing critically important scientific studies on Paxil,
GSK impaired doctors' ability to make the appropriate
prescribing decision for their patients and may have
jeopardized their health and safety."
A Glaxo spokesperson could not be reached for comment.
Paxil has been approved to treat depression in adult
patients, but, like Zoloft, has not been approved to treat
depression in juvenile patients. Prozac is the only
FDA-approved antidepressant for treating depression in young
patients. Doctors can prescribe all antidepressants to
children through a practice known as "off-label"
Previously unpublished studies from antidepressant makers,
including Glaxo and Pfizer, has led the FDA to request caution
labels on such drugs warning doctors and patients to watch for
increased signs of suicide. The British drug review agency has
all but banned prescribing antidepressants to children after
determining most were either ineffective or too dangerous.
Prozac was the lone exception.
Pittman had been on a five-week regimen of Paxil and Zoloft
before authorities say he killed Joe Frank Pittman and Joy
Roberts Pittman on Nov. 28, 2001, and burned their house down
with their bodies still inside. He was 12 at the time.
Now 15, he will be tried as an adult and could receive up
to life in prison if convicted.
Jason Cato • 329-4071