GSK ordered to pay damages for suicide lawsuit

Depression is a very common mental health problem, and any treatment prescribed should not cause someone further harm.

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Prescribed medication is the most likely solution that doctors offer patients with depression, as despite the potential side effects, the positive aspects are generally deemed to outweigh any risks. However, a recent incident involving a man’s suicide, thought to have been triggered by the anti-depressant medication he was taking at the time, has raised both questions and doubts about the way such new drugs are tested and marketed.

GSK lawsuit loss

The drug at the centre of this row is a generic version of Paxil. The original version was made and sold by GlaxoSmithKline [GSK], but the version which Stewart Dolin was taking when he committed suicide by jumping into the path of a train 7 years ago was made and sold by a company called Mylan. Regardless, GSK was held responsible, and ordered to pay $3 million compensation to Dolin’s widow, largely because Mylan’s product (paroxetine) was manufactured and labeled according to GSK’s specifications.

The key issue in this case is not related to warnings of side effects as much as to how accurate those warnings actually are. Both versions carried an easily read, FDA approved message about the dangers of raised suicidal tendencies in young people. Dolin was near to 60 when he died, but as GSK was believed to have known the risk crossed age boundaries, its warning was both inaccurate and negligent.

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Depression is a global issue

More than 300 million people in the world are affected by depression, and they have a right to know about the risks of available medication. Yet during the trial, lawyers claimed GSK had ignored or manipulated any contrary data from paid medical trials in order to push the drug through to the ‘approved for prescribing’ stage.

Paid medical trials are conducted by responsible companies, such as Trials observe strict policies on honest reporting, but evidence introduced in this case suggests clinical findings by those trialing paroxetine were used to meet a particular agenda.

Nothing can bring Stewart Dolin back, and money cannot truly compensate the family he left behind, but honest reporting of clinical trial findings is essential for them to have any meaning at all.

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