Drugs giant GlaxoSmithKline was ordered this morning to pay $2.5 million (US) to the family of a young boy born with heart defects after his mother took the anti-depressant Paxil during pregnancy.
“The first win is always huge, especially when you get a jury saying the drug caused the injury,” Sean Tracey, Kilker’s lawyer, said in an interview after the jury reached its decision.
It’s the first time a jury has considered claims that Glaxo, the U.K.’s largest drugmaker, knew Paxil caused birth defects and hid those risks to increase profits. The drug, approved for U.S. use in 1992, generated about $942 million in sales last year, or 2.1 percent of Glaxo’s total revenue.
“We’re disappointed with the verdict and I think we’ll be filing an appeal,” Joseph O’Neil, one of Glaxo’s lawyers, said in an interview.
Lyam Kilker, who turns four next week, was born with a rare heart deformity. During the trial, the first of some 600 filed against Glaxo, Tracey argued the company failed to warn doctors and patients about possible side effects to the drug.
Company lawyers presented studies and experts arguing that the drug is safe, despite warnings added to its label in 2005 (after Lyam was born) about the possibility of birth defects. Tracey countered by arguing before the jury that such researchers had close ties to the pharmaceutical industry.
The jury deliberated for seven hours. The Kilker case, brought by his mother Michelle David, was considered a test case for future lawsuits. The next will be heard in about a month -- also in Philadelphia, home to Glaxo's US headquarters.
Lawyers for many of those cases have been in Philadelphia monitoring the progress of the Kilker suit as part of their preparation for going to court.