INDIANAPOLIS - A Michigan woman who blames
her husband's suicide on Prozac has filed a lawsuit claiming that
Eli Lilly & Co. should have warned patients that some people's
bodies cannot metabolize the drug's active ingredient.
The lawsuit filed Thursday against the Indianapolis-based drug
maker in Marion County Superior Court is the second to make such a
claim. Lilly settled a similar case in Georgia this spring.
But Houston attorney Andy Vickery, who has filed more than 20
lawsuits against the drug maker including the Georgia suit, said
this case is different.
"This is the first case involving Lilly that we have hard
scientific proof that our client had a hard time metabolizing
Prozac," he said.
A blood test found high levels of fluoxetine, Prozac's active
ingredient, in the body of Clarkston, Mich., police officer Daren
Alli following his May 23, 2001 suicide, the lawsuit alleges.
Alli had taken Prozac for three days to alleviate a "mild" case
of depression, but threw the pills in the toilet after they made him
"jumpy" and "jittery," said his widow, Michele.
Four days later, the SWAT team captain shot himself in the head
with a .38-caliber revolver.
"I know that Daren did not make this decision. Those drugs took
him from us," said Michele Alli, a registered nurse and mother of
Lilly, which has faced more than 300 lawsuits over Prozac's
alleged side effects, maintains the drug's safety is
well-documented. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved
Prozac for use in children this year.
"Prozac has been found to be safe and efficacious," Lilly
spokeswoman Jennifer Yoder told The Indianapolis Star. "Its safety
and efficacy is well-studied, well-documented and
An FDA panel in 1991 found no evidence that Prozac and similar
antidepressants cause suicides, she said.
The Georgia lawsuit was brought by William H. Shell, the widower
of LaVerne M. Shell. She shot herself to death at age 63 in November
2000, 11 days after starting on a prescription of Prozac to treat
The lawsuit alleged that a human enzyme dubbed CYP2D6 normally
metabolizes or breaks down Prozac and similar drugs in the body, but
fails to do so in a minority of people. In their bodies, the active
ingredient in Prozac builds up to high levels, putting them at risk
of violence and suicide, the lawsuit alleged.
The government in August warned against using a similar drug,
Paxil, in youngsters because of a potential increased risk of
suicide. Paxil and Prozac both work by increasing brain activity of
the mood-regulating chemical serotonin.
Yoder said the findings about Paxil do not apply to Prozac.
The FDA approved Prozac in 1987. It went on to become Lilly's
top-selling drug until the company lost its patent in