Jury: Paxil Maker Must Pay $8 Million

ByABC News

C H E Y E N N E, Wyo., June 6, 2001 -- The manufacturer of the nation'ssecond-best-selling anti-depressant must pay $8 million to therelatives of a man who killed himself and three othersafter taking the drug Paxil, jurors said.

Jurors in U.S. District Court considering the wrongful deathcivil suit returned a verdict against SmithKline Beecham today. They received the case Tuesday afternoon.

Relatives of Donald Schell, 60, claim the man, originally from Gillette, Wyo., took twoPaxil tablets before shooting his wife, their daughter, hisgranddaughter and himself to death on Feb. 13, 1998.

The survivors' lead attorney, Andy Vickery, had asked the juryto award a total of $25 million in damages.

Besides Schell, the victims were his wife, Rita Schell, 55;their daughter, Deborah Tobin, 31; and Alyssa Tobin, 9 months.Tobin's widower, Tim Tobin, and Donald Schell's sister, Neva Hardy,filed the wrongful-death lawsuit.

Vickery also asked the jury to award damages to Michael Schell,the Schells' adult son, and to Rita Schell's mother.

The jury awarded damages in varied amounts for each death, withthe largest awards — $2.5 million each — for the deaths of Deborahand Alyssa Tobin going to Tim Tobin.

Jury Said Drug Maker 80 Percent to Blame

In its findings, the jury concluded that Paxil could causesomeone to commit suicide or homicide and that the drug was in facta proximate cause of the deaths in this case.

The jury attributed 80 percent of the fault in the case to thedrug maker and 20 percent to Donald Schell.

A call seeking comment from representatives of the drug companywas not immediately returned today.

In closing arguments, Vickery said Paxil can produce suicidaland homicidal reactions in a small number of people.

"Since 1990, SmithKline Beecham knew there was a small group atrisk and Don Schell was one of those vulnerable people," he said.

The company, now GlaxoSmithKline PLC, failed to provide adequatelabel warnings about the possibility of violent reactions, nor didit adequately test for the risk of such reactions, he said.

Company: Drug Didn't Have a Chance to Work

Attorneys for the company maintained that Paxil is a safetreatment for depression.

"It's plain from the facts, science and common sense," CharlesPreuss said in closing arguments. "Don Schell's escalatingdepression caused this.

"The real tragedy is Paxil didn't have a chance to do its joband save lives," he said. "Paxil could have saved four lives inGillette."

Vickery said Schell told people he hallucinated when he tookProzac a decade earlier.

Preuss said Schell went through five previous bouts ofdepression that kept him out of work, but Schell did not followthe recommendations of at least three psychiatrists.

Also, he said, Schell had been coping with the death of hisfather-in-law and brother and had problems at work regarding athreatened lawsuit.

Doctors from across the United States and from England werecalled to testify during the 2 ½-week trial.

Central nervous system drugs like Paxil are GlaxoSmithKline'sbiggest product group. GlaxoSmithKline's world headquarters are inLondon and its U.S. research operations are based in Philadelphia.

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