Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Paxil Ruling in Philadelphia Courts

This week a Philadelphia judge ruled that federal law cannot pre-empt a state product liability claim. The first Paxil case, Collins v. SmithKline Beecham Corp. d/b/a GlaxoSmithKline focuses on the alleged failure of the makers of Paxil to warn the pill-taking public about the increased risk of suicide. The judge of Philadelphia Common Pleas Court's Complex Litigation Program, denied a defense motion for summary judgment, ruling that the doctrine of federal pre-emption does not preclude the plaintiffs from arguing that GlaxoSmithKline failed to fulfill its duty to warn users of Paxil of an alleged association between the use of the drug and suicide.

Sol H. Weiss, a shareholder of Anapol Schwartz Weiss Cohan Feldman & Smalley and the plaintiffs' attorney in Collins, said he is not aware of any other Pennsylvania common pleas court opinions dealing with the federal pre-emption issue in pharmaceutical cases since the FDA unveiled revisions to its prescription drug labeling requirements in January 2006 and unveiled the "pre-emption preamble," which said that FDA approval of drug labels pre-empts conflicting or contrary state law.

Andrew Bayman, national trial counsel for GlaxoSmithKline's Paxil litigation, is a partner with King & Spalding in Atlanta and that firm's practice group leader for its tort litigation and environmental group. He said he believes this is the first Philadelphia pharmaceutical case addressing the federal pre-emption issue. GlaxoSmithKline is prepared to take the Collins case to trial and present evidence that there were other stressors, along with pre-existing depression that led to the suicide.

Weiss said, “This is a very hot area of litigation because the pharmaceutical companies want a free pass, If these claims are pre-empted, then all these people who are injured won't have a right to recovery.” There are 60 cases pending in the Philadelphia Paxil program.

In the Collins case, the survivors of Bobby R. Collins brought a claim against GlaxoSmithKline, alleging that the Paxil prescribed to Collins for stress-related depression did not have an adequate warning of possible suicidality. Collins committed suicide Feb. 14, 2002.

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