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Friday, June 4, 2004

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30 Utahns join Paxil lawsuit

By Angie Welling
Deseret Morning News

      Thirty Utah residents on Thursday joined the some 4,000 people nationwide who have sued the makers of Paxil, a popular anti-depressant from the British drug company GlaxoSmithKline.
      According to a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court, the Utahns all suffered severe reactions after attempting to stop taking Paxil, which allegedly had been marketed as non-habit-forming.
      "At all times relevant herein, (GlaxoSmithKline) knew that Paxil could cause severe withdrawal reactions but for years concealed, suppressed and downplayed the severity and frequency of their existence to plaintiffs, the medical community and the consuming public," the suit states. "As a result, plaintiffs were deprived of their ability to exercise their full and informed consent when deciding to take Paxil."
      Had the Utahns known of the "debilitating withdrawal symptoms" including severe nausea, dizziness and sensory disturbances such as electronic "zaps" many of them would not have taken Paxil in the first place, attorney Karen Barth Menzies said.
      Barth Menzies, of the Los Angeles-based law firm Baum Hedlund, is the lead attorney in the nationwide Paxil withdrawal litigation. Her firm filed the first class-action lawsuit against GlaxoSmithKline in August 2001 and has since filed lawsuits in 28 states.
      Thursday's lawsuit will be transferred from Utah's federal court to a special Multidistrict Litigation court based in Los Angeles.
      The Utah case accuses GlaxoSmithKline of fraud and fraudulent misrepresentation, negligent misrepresentation and marketing, breach of express warranty, negligence, strict liability, unjust enrichment and violations of the Utah Consumer Sales Practices Act.
      The 30 plaintiffs are seeking monetary compensation, as well as injunctive relief that would require GlaxoSmithKline to stop their alleged false marketing of Paxil.
      "They're trying to obtain relief for the suffering they've had to go through," Barth Menzies said. "There's a lot of people who've had to miss work and couldn't take care of their kids."
      Some of the plaintiffs' withdrawal symptoms have been so severe they are forced to continue taking the medication, she said. In those cases, they are also seeking compensation for the cost of the medicine.
      Earlier this week, New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer sued GlaxoSmithKline for consumer fraud, contending the drug maker failed to tell physicians studies showed that Paxil was not effective in adolescent patients and may be linked to come cases of suicide.
      The drug company has responded with a statement saying it "has acted responsibly in conducting clinical studies in pediatric patients and disseminating data from those studies."


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