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Jury Finds Glaxo to Blame in Wrongful Deaths

Friday, June 8, 2001

CHEYENNE, Wyo.– Glaxo-SmithKline must pay $6.4 million to relatives of a man who went on a shooting rampage, killing his family and then turning a gun on himself after taking antidepression drug Paxil, a Wyoming jury ruled.

Jurors in federal court in Cheyenne deliberated about four hours Wednesday before holding Gloxo, the world’s second-largest drug maker, responsible for the deaths of Donald Schell; his wife, Rita; his daughter Deborah Schell Tobin; and his 9-month-old granddaughter Alyssa Tobin, the family’s lawyers said.

Like Eli Lilly & Co.’s Prozac and Pfizer Inc.’s Zoloft, Paxil is used to treat depression. But families of some users have filed suits claiming the drug can cause violent reactions in patients.

“We hope that SmithKline will heed the verdict and issue appropriate warnings so that no other families will have to endure this type of preventable tragedy,” said Jim Fitzgerald, a Cheyenne-based lawyer representing the family.

U.S. officials of Britain-based Glaxo disputed the jury’s finding that the drug was responsible for Schell’s actions and said they will appeal the verdict.

“We believe this tragedy was caused by the disease, not the treatment,” said Mary Anne Rhyne, a Glaxo spokeswoman based in Raleigh, N.C.

Schell, 60, had no history of violence prior to taking Paxil, Fitzgerald said.

During the trial, the family produced evidence from GlaxoSmithKline’s research that showed some Paxil users experienced hallucinations, psychosis, suicide attempts and aggressive behavior while on the drug, he added.

Rhyne said the verdict is the first that Paxil, the second-largest selling antidepressant in the U.S. behind Lilly’s Prozac, was responsible for deaths.

Plaintiffs’ lawyers haven’t had much success holding makers of antidepressant drugs responsible for the violent behavior exhibited by some users.

GlaxSmithKline’s American depositary receipts rose 58 cents to close at $55.48 on the New York Stock Exchange.

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