Two Wisconsin women have filed a class-action lawsuit against the makers of the anti-depressant Paxil, joining hundreds of others in alleging that the drug left them with severe withdrawal.
The suit filed in Milwaukee County accuses GlaxoSmithKline of failing to warn consumers that the popular drug can be addictive and that patients may suffer nausea, sweating, agitation and tremors when they discontinue its use. Similar lawsuits have been filed in 14 states, and a national class-action suit is pending in California.
The local plaintiffs, Christen Holcombe of Milwaukee and Linda Gollin of Pewaukee, are seeking to join hundreds and possibly thousands of other Wisconsin residents who sought help from Paxil, their attorney James Murphy said.
A decision on certification of the national lawsuit in California is expected Nov. 18. If it is certified, the suits in Wisconsin and other states probably will be set aside, Murphy said.
The suit by Holcombe and Gollin brings to Wisconsin the ongoing battle over Paxil and its alleged addictive downside. Hundreds of users across the country have complained that they had crying spells, dizziness and electric shock sensations when they stopped taking the drug.
GlaxoSmithKline maintains that Paxil is not addictive and its users may experience "discontinuation symptoms" that dissipate after one to two weeks.
"Any claims that Paxil is addictive are without foundation," said Mary Anne Rhyne, a spokeswoman for the Pennsylvania-based drug maker. "There is no reliable scientific evidence to that effect."
Reviews from the medical community have been split on the drug.
Last month, GlaxoSmithKline gained a legal victory in its defense of Paxil when the judge in the California case rescinded an order that had barred the company from claiming the drug was non-addictive in its advertising campaign. The ruling followed a U.S. Food and Drug Administration finding that the company's ads for Paxil were not misleading.
The drug, introduced in 1992, is similar to Prozac and Zoloft, two other anti-depressants.
Paxil is GlaxoSmithKline's bestselling drug, reaching nearly $3 billion in sales in 2001, according to the company.
Murphy said the drug's value to GlaxoSmithKline sales explains why the company has resisted honest disclosure about its danger of addiction and withdrawal symptoms.
"They don't want to discourage people from using it or from having doctors stop prescribing it," he said.
Rhyne said Paxil had helped millions of people who suffer from depression.