The Guardian (U.K.) reports that British lawyers are considering legal action similar to the actions taken in the U.S. against GlaxoSmithKline, the British manufacturers of the antidepressant drug, Paxil.
The issues involve patients who claim they have not been warned about severe withdrawal symptoms from antidepressant drugs, such as Prozac and Paxil. "The side-effects they suffer when they try to stop taking the tablets, include jolting pains in the head, vertigo, loss of coordination, abdominal discomfort, agitation and confusion."
Since filing two class action lawsuits (August 24, 2001 and Sept 14, 2001), the Los Angeles law firm, Baum, Hedlund, Aristei, Guilford and Schiavo, has received more than 2,000 calls from people to tell of their addiction to Paxil.
If antidepressant drugs such as Prozac and Paxil are addictive, why has the FDA not required a warning on the label of these drugs? If they are addictive for adults, what are they doing to America's childreneven infantswho are prescribed psychotropic drugs?
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More than 60 people in Britain who say they have become hooked on the anti-depressant Seroxat - a drug in the Prozac class - are exploring the possibility of legal action against the pharmaceutical company which they claim failed to warn doctors that that it could create dependency.
Two firms of solicitors say they already have between 30 and 40 cases each. The people have come forward following news of a legal case in the US in which 35 people allege they suffered severe side-effects when they tried to stop taking the drug.
The Los Angeles law firm Baum, Hedlund, Aristei, Guilford and Schiavo - which filed its action against the British manufacturers GlaxoSmithKline in September - has since had more than 2,000 calls from people to tell of their addiction to the drug, which is known in the US as Paxil. The side-effects they suffer when they try to stop taking the tablets, include jolting pains in the head, vertigo, loss of coordination, abdominal discomfort, agitation and confusion.
The US lawyers have asked GSK to set up treatment centres to help people attempting to withdraw from Paxil/Seroxat. GSK say there is no reliable scientific evidence that the drug causes addiction or dependency.
The British solicitors, Ross & Co, based in the Wirral, and Hugh James Ford Simey of Cardiff, have been receiving calls from people who did not realise that others had suffered the same symptoms when they tried to cut down and come off the drug.
"We have been contacted by 30 to 40 people, most of whom have startlingly similar tales to tell of being put on the drug and being taken off it, and then going back on," said Mark Harvey of Hugh James Ford Simey.
Mr Harvey said most people are told by the doctor that their problems are the symptoms of their depression re-appearing and do not suspect that the drug might be to blame. "This does have the smell of something that is a problem," he said. "The patient information sheet says it is not addictive twice."
Graham Ross, of Ross & Co, thinks that there is a good potential case against the manufacturers. "So far as evidence of dependency is concerned, that is pretty strong," he said.
"I feel we can prove that. Failure to ensure that GPs are aware of that risk and therefore warn patients accordingly - there is plenty of evidence that they are not doing that."
But group actions face particular problems in Britain. Attempts to litigate against the makers of benzodiazapines - including Valium, Librium and Ativan, which were also said not to be addictive when they were launched - collapsed because the legal aid granted to the claimants was used up in the lengthy investigations of the cases demanded by the companies before the action reached court.