For the second time this year, GlaxoSmithKline is moving to dispense with nagging litigation by agreeing to wholesale settlements. Last month, the drugmaker agreed to pay about $60 million to settle 700 lawsuits alleging its Avandia diabetes pill causes heart attacks and strokes (back story). Now, Glaxo is settling nearly 200 lawsuits that charged its Paxil antidepressant caused birth defects, although the amounts were not disclosed, The Legal Intelligencer reports.
The move comes after a Pennsylvania state court jury last October awarded a woman $2.5 million in damages for failing to properly warn docs and pregnant women about the risks of the antidepressant. This case, which was filed by the family of three-year-old Lyam Kilker, who was born with heart defects his mother blamed on the drug. It was the first of 600 such lawsuits and was seen as a test of Glaxo's vulnerability (background). Since then, Glaxo settled several other suits headed for a jury, although about 100 more remain pending (here is the order for the settlement).
Kilker has three congenital heart defects, including a rare defect known as an interrupted aortic arch. Glaxo argued this particular defect has not been associated with the use of Paxil by pregnant mothers and its cause is generally unknown. Plaintiffs' attorney Jamie Sheller says GSK thought it could win on Kilker's more rare defect, which is why they took that lawsuit to trial and settled other cases.
A Glaxo spokeswoman writes us to say that the drugmaker "believes it acted properly and responsibly in conducting its clinical trial program for Paxil, in marketing the medicine, in monitoring its safety once it was approved for use and in updating pregnancy information in the medicine’s label as new information became available." She notes that other lawsuits are scheduled for trial in the fall.