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SSRI Maker Reportedly Agreed to Pay $1 Billion to Settle Lawsuits

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Tacoma, WAGlaxoSmithKline, maker of Paxil, has reportedly agreed to pay $1 billion to settle lawsuits concerning its selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressant. Whether this settlement has any bearing on other SSRI lawsuits remains to be seen. Lawsuits allege patients were not adequately warned about the risk of Paxil side effects.

According to Bloomberg on 7/20/10, GlaxoSmithKline Plc will pay $1 billion to settle more than 800 lawsuits that alleged Paxil caused birth defects. The settlement provides each family an average of $1.2 million, although there are still more than 100 lawsuits reportedly pending.

Lawsuits against Paxil alleged the drug was responsible for the development of birth defects in babies who were exposed to Paxil prior to birth. The drug has also faced lawsuits alleging that patients committed or attempted suicide. In total, $2 billion has been paid to settle both types of claims.

GlaxoSmithKline has confirmed it settled some Paxil birth-defects lawsuits but has not commented on the terms of the settlements.

"The company has agreed to these settlements, despite its litigation defenses, in order to avoid the costs, burdens and uncertainties of ongoing litigation," said Sarah Alspach, a GlaxoSmithKline spokesperson, in an e-mailed statement (as quoted by Bloomberg). Alspach further said that GlaxoSmithKline believes it acted responsibly in studying, marketing and monitoring Paxil.

The settlement of these birth defects lawsuits follows a jury award of $2.5 million to the family of Lyam Kilker, who was born with a heart defect after being exposed to Paxil prior to birth. Jurors awarded the amount after determining that GlaxoSmithKline "negligently failed to warn" the doctor who treated Kilker's mother about the risk of birth defects.

Although $2.5 million were awarded in the case, there was no award of punitive damages. Lawyers for Kilker's family alleged that GlaxoSmithKline executives talked about negative studies linking Paxil to birth defects.

Bloomberg notes that the majority of birth defect lawsuits filed in Philadelphia have now been settled. Additionally, approximately $50,000 was paid per case to settle around 3,200 claims that Paxil was linked to addiction problems.

It is not yet known if settlements in Paxil litigation will have any impact on lawsuits concerning other SSRIs or SNRIs (serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors).

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