Donald Schell vs. SmithKline Beecham

Donald Schell vs. SmithKline Beecham

Glaxo Raises White Flag, Settles Paxil Trial Appeal, and Pays Up

Rick Giombetti

In a bombshell comparable to the recent belated revelation of the disaster that hormone replacement therapy has been, I have learned that Paxil manufacturer Glaxo-Smith-Kline (GSK) has secretly settled its appeal of the ruling in the Paxil trial last year.
Donald Schell vs. SmithKline Beecham


Glaxo Raises White Flag, Settles Paxil Trial Appeal, and Pays Up

Rick Giombetti

In a bombshell comparable to the recent belated revelation of the disaster that hormone replacement therapy has been, I have learned that Paxil manufacturer Glaxo-Smith-Kline (GSK) has secretly settled its appeal of the ruling in the Paxil trial last year.

GSK was sued in federal district court in Cheyenne by family members of Donald Schell, the Gillette, Wyoming man who killed his wife, daughter, granddaughter and then himself on February 13, 1998 after two days on the pharmaceutical giant’s anti-anxiety/depression drug Paxil. The plaintiff’s position was that Paxil was the primary cause of Donald Schell’s actions in the murder-suicide. The jury agreed and the judge in the trial rejected GSK’s challenge of the validity of the scientific data presented to the jury by the plaintiff’s. As a public service I will be publishing the crucial expert testimony and cross examination of British psychiatrist and psychiatric historian David Healy soon.

GSK appealed the verdict in the case in Denver, but recently gave up, I have been told by Healy. The deal in the appeal settlement GSK made with the plaintiff’s calls for the company getting all of its documents back, and a set of confidentiality statements from the plaintiffs side to not release anymore details of the case not already in the public domain. This is an important development in the history of psychiatric medicine. The jury verdict forced GSK to cave in to the demands of the Medicines Control Agency, the British government agency that regulates prescription drugs, that it place a suicide warning on Paxil. GSK has had to place a suicide warning on Paxil in Britain for about a year now. Now the question remains will this same warning ever make it over to this side of the Atlantic, with as much publicity as the hormone replacement story has gotten? Not likely, I believe, but I hope I am wrong.

Even though there isn’t a widely publicized suicide warning being given for Paxil, or any other drug in its class, known as “Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors,” or “SSRI’s,” it’s not like there is a complete information black out about these newer generation psychiatric drugs in consumer prescription drug guides.

For example, in the recently published 10th edition of The Pill Book, it warns patients taking SSRI’s (i.e. Celexa, Luvox, Paxil, Prozac and Zoloft) that “The possibility of suicide exists in severely depressed patients and may be present until the condition is significantly improved. Severely depressed people should be allowed to carry only small quantities of SSRI’s to limit the risk of overdose.” The term “overdose” can just as easily be read as “killing themselves.” Also, “As many as 1/3 of people taking an SSRI experience anxiety, sleeplessness and nervousness.” In other words all the symptoms that can push a depressed person over the edge and into a suicide attempt. Finally, the recently published 5th edition of The Physicians’ Desk Reference Pocket Guide to Prescription Drugs warns patients considering taking the SSRI known as Zoloft “May also cause mental or emotional symptoms such as: Abnormal dreams or thoughts, aggressiveness, exaggerated feeling well-being, depersonalization (“unreal” feeling), hallucinations, impaired concentration, memory loss, paranoia, rapid mood shifts, SUICIDAL THOUGHTS, tooth-grinding, WORSENED DEPRESSION (emphasis is the authors).”

Now why on Earth are pharmaceutical companies allowed to get away with marketing these drugs as “anti-depressants,” or “anti-anxiety” agents when they can produce in patients exactly what they are supposed to treat at such high rates? This is the deeper question about the mass marketing of these drugs the mass media is simply avoiding by a combination of cowardice, laziness and just outright ignorance in reporting on these issues.

Rick Giombetti is a freelance writer who. lives in Seattle. Visit his website at: He can be reached at:

6/29/2000 – $29M Awarded To 2 Fen-Phen Users

Jury Awards $29M To Fen-Phen Users

June 29, 2000 2:15 am EST

Manufacturer Of Weight Loss Drug Plans To Appeal

COQUILLE, OREGON (CBS News) – An Oregon jury has awarded $29.1 million in
damages to a 58-year-old bus driver and her son who said the diet drug
combination fen-phen damaged their hearts.

American Home Products Corp. said it plans to appeal Tuesday’s decision by a
Coos County jury, which said the drug, sold under the name Pondimin, caused
heart problems for Juanita Batson and Richard Wirt.

Fenfluramine, the “fen” in the drug combination, was withdrawn in September
1997 after a Mayo Clinic study linked it to potentially fatal heart valve
damage. The second drug in the combination, phentermine, was not linked to
any problems.

About 6 million people in the United States had been prescribed fen-phen by
the time the study was released.

American Home Products, based in Madison, N.J., faces more than 9,000
lawsuits involving Pondimin. The company also made Redux, a related drug.

Batson used the fen-phen diet drug for nine months to a year. Wirt, 40, who
works as a grocery store manager, took the drug for four months.

Their attorneys asked the jury to decide whether American Home Products knew
or should have know of the drug’s dangers and whether the two Bandon
residents were harmed financially from their injuries. The jury also was
asked to decide whether Dr. John Abbot was negligent in prescribing them the

Mark Spooner, a lawyer representing American Home Products, suggested the
plaintiffs’ health problems could be related to heredity or age.

Spooner called the trial a “lottery litigation wherein the plaintiffs were
absolutely healthy” until their attorneys “took them aside and told them they

The jury’s decision came as a federal judge in Philadelphia decides whether
to approve American Home’s $3.75 billion plan to settle the majority of U.S.
lawsuits filed by former fen-phen users.

About 1 percent of those have opted out of a national settlement deal that
could make $3.75 billion available to users of Pondimin and Redux, As of May,
the case had about 282,000 claimants.

In a separate case, Debbie Lovett of Grand Saline, Texas, was awarded $23.3
million nearly a year ago by a jury. The case was settled for less than 10
percent of that amount during an appeal.

SOURCE: The Associated Press.