In 2010, Stewart Dolin began taking the antidepressant paroxetine, the generic form of Paxil. Five days after he started the prescription, the 57-year-old Chicago lawyer threw himself in front of a train and committed suicide.
His wife, Wendy Dolin, believes that her husband suffered from akathisia, a state of acute psychological and physical agitation, which is a side effect of the drug. Akathisia is a drug-induced condition. It causes restlessness, anxiety and an impulse to move. It can be difficult to distinguish akathisia symptoms from anxiety and depression.
Ms. Dolin sued the manufacturer of Paxil, GlaxoSmithKline, for insufficient warnings of the risks associated with the antidepressant. She was awarded $3 million earlier this spring in her wrongful death case.
Ms. Dolin won the case despite the fact that GlaxoSmithKline did not manufacture the generic form of Paxil that Mr. Dolin took. She argued that GlaxoSmithKline “was still responsible because the drugs are identical and have the same labeling,” according to The Chicago Tribune. GlaxoSmithKline no longer sells Paxil in the United States.
Through this lawsuit, GlaxoSmithKline released data on early clinical trials of Paxil which revealed a number of suicides and suicide attempts. According to The New York Times, because of those findings, the warning label on Paxil was changed in 2006 to caution that the “frequency of suicidal behavior was [6.7 times] higher in patients treated with paroxetine compared with [the] placebo” among adults of all ages with serious depressive disorder. That label was replaced in 2007 by the F.D.A. mandated warning that states that the increased risk exists among individuals under the age of 25.
According to the National Center for Health Statistics, one in seven American adults over the age of 40 has filled a prescription for an antidepressant.
Since her husband’s death, Wendy Dolin has founded a nonprofit to raise awareness about akathisia and advocates for patient safety.