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Suicide and Product Warnings

The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago has ruled that the subsequent remedial measure of putting suicide-related warnings on the packaging of the anti-depressant drug Effexor is not admissible in a case where a suicide victim has sued the manufactuer of the drug.

Jeff Giles, a southern Illinois coal miner, was diagnosed with major depressive disorder in 2002.  His physician prescribed Effexor which is manufactured by Wyeth, Inc.  Two days after starting on Effexor Giles committed suicide.  His family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Wyeth.

In 2003 the FDA announced that it was concerned about reports that the drug Paxil was linked to suicide attempts in children and young adults.  In August of 2003 Wyeth changed the warning included in Effexor’s packaging to state that pediatric clinical trials showed an increased risk of suicidal ideation in children using the drug.

The trial court refused to allow evidence of subsequent warnings at Giles trial in the Southern District of Illinois.  A verdict was entered in favor of Wyeth and Giles family appealed. 

The 7th Circuit ruled that because the 2003 warnings focused on children they had little probative value in helping to establish whether Wyeth knew or should have known about an increased risk of suicide in adults like Giles.