Two families say Paxil caused birth defects

By Kelly Holleran | Oct 1, 2008

Two West Virginia families have filed federal suits against the makers of a popular drug, claiming the medicine caused birth defects in their children.

Mothers in both families took Paxil, a drug commonly used to treat depression, during their pregnancies, according to the complaint filed Sept. 3.

As a result, their children were born with heart defects and developmental delays, the two suits state.

Both Melissa G. and Howard W. Currence, a couple from Buchannon, and Prudence G. and William E. Dziatkowicz, a couple from Weirton, claim the women took the drug believing it to have no adverse side effects because company promotions touted the drug as a safe alternative for pregnant women.

In addition, both women's treating physicians prescribed them the drug, according to the complaints.

The families have filed complaints only against the companies.

"The finger is being pointed at drug manufacturer and not the physicians at this point," said Teresa C. Toriseva, the attorney for both families.

When the couple's children, William Joseph Dziatkowicz and Kasey R. Currence, were born, both suffered from congenital injuries and disorders and birth defects, as well as heart defects and developmental delays, the suits state.

The two families claim GlaxoSmithKline, the company that makes Paxil, knew the drug was associated with increased birth defects in babies, even while both women were pregnant.

"Other studies showed that increased levels of serotonin, the primary human substance affected by PAXIL, had profound effects on the pre-natal cardiac development of study animals," the suit states.

Even with this knowledge, the company continued to promote its products as a safer alternative to women of childbearing age and to those who are pregnant, according to the complaint.

GlaxoSmithKline did not inform doctors of the risks until 2005 when it revised Paxil's label indicating the dangers, the suit states.

Both the Currences and the Dziatkowiczs are seeking unspecified compensatory damages, pre- and post-judgment interest, court costs, a refund of all costs associated with the purchase of Paxil and disgorgement of the company's profits from Paxil.

They have both demanded jury trials.

Toriseva is representing both couples. The Wheeling attorney said she plans to file similar cases, but is not sure how many.

U.S. District Court case numbers: 2:08-CV-90 and 5:08-CV-139

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