April 21A Glencoe woman hugged her attorneys after a jury in Chicago awarded her $3 million Thursday in a lawsuit against a pharmaceutical company that she blamed for her husband's suicide.
"We won!" she mouthed to one of her lawyers.
Wendy Dolin's husband, Stewart, stepped in front of a CTA Blue Line train in the Loop on July 15, 2010. He had been taking paroxetine, a drug for depression and anxiety, and his widow claimed in her lawsuit that GlaxoSmithKline failed to warn her husband's doctor of the drug's increased risk of suicidal behavior, leading to his death.
GlaxoSmithKline makes Paxil, a brand-name version of paroxetine. Though Stewart Dolin was taking the generic form, his widow's suit argued and the jury agreed that the pharmaceutical company was still responsible because the drugs are identical and have the same labeling.
Stewart Dolin was a corporate attorney and a partner at the Reed Smith law firm at the time of his death. He was 57.
Wendy Dolin called the verdict "a great day for consumers," though she said the result was bittersweet.
"This for me has not just been about the money. This has always been about awareness to a health issue, and the public has to be aware of this," she said after the verdict was announced in federal court following three days of jury deliberations.
"None of us here are anti-drug. That's not the issue," Dolin added, "but we are patient advocates and we hope that people will start asking better questions."
Officials from the pharmaceutical company said the verdict was disappointing and that they plan to appeal.
"GSK maintains that because it did not manufacture or market the medicine ingested by Mr. Dolin, it should not be liable," the company said in a statement. "Additionally, the Paxil label provided complete and adequate warnings during the time period relevant to this lawsuit."
Wendy Dolin's suit, which alleged negligence and wrongful death, originally named the generic drug manufacturer and its distributor as defendants, but U.S. District Judge James Zagel ruled earlier to release them from the suit, saying they had no control of the drug's label.
"We're hoping this sends a clear signal to (GSK) that they need to change the label" to indicate a suicide risk for those over the age of 25, said R. Brent Wisner, one of Wendy Dolin's attorneys, who called the lack of such labeling "outrageous."
"We're just really happy that we finally had a chance to bring all this to court for the first time (and) show all these documents to the public which had, until this day, been under seal," he said.
Wendy Dolin now advocates for patient safety and aims to raise awareness about akathisia, a state of restlessness or anxiety that sometimes occurs as a side effect of certain antidepressant and antipsychotic drugs. She has started a nonprofit organization, the Medication-Induced Suicide Prevention and Education Foundation, in memory of Stewart Dolin.
"I think Stewart would be very proud of his family", Wendy Dolin said, "and how we've all stood together and made a difference, that we didn't allow this injustice."
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