I've been watching the proceedings of a current trial in the US. It involves the wife of a man who killed himself shortly after being prescribed Paxil.
If you are like me, a bit of a geek when it comes to reading court documents, then you will just love this.
It plays out like a John Grisham novel. Here we get to see the mechanics of defence lawyers, particularly when it comes to allowing expert witnesses to offer evidence against the company they are representing, in this instance, GlaxoSmithKline.
In June 2010 Stewart Dolin visited his family doctor who wrote him a prescription for Paxil for "work-related anxiety and depression".
Dolin's prescription was dispensed but he received the generic form, manufactured by Mylan.
Six days after beginning his course of the generic Paxil, Dolin left his office shortly after having returned from lunch with a business associate. He walked to a nearby Chicago Transit Authority Blue Line station at Washington and Dearborn in downtown Chicago. As a northbound train approached the station, Mr. Dolin leaped in front of it to his death. Blood tests taken with Mr. Dolin’s autopsy were positive for paroxetine.
Stewart's wife, Wendy, filed suit against GSK. (Dolin v. SmithKline Beecham Corp. et al., case number 1:12-cv-06403)
GSK have filed so many motions in this case. Basically, they write to a judge asking him to make a decision on claims they make. In the case of Dolin they first claimed that, although Stewart Dolin had taken paroxetine, it wasn't their brand. In fact, the brand that Dolin had taken was a generic form, manufactured by Mylan and not GlaxoSmithKline.
On March 4, 2014, an Illinois federal judge determined that GlaxoSmithKline PLC can be held liable for a suicide even though the consumer took a generic version of the antidepressant Paxil, (Source)
Next form of defence for Glaxo's highly paid law team, King & Spalding, was to target the person bringing the claim against them. In this instance, the wife of the deceased, Wendy Dolin.
GSK's defence lawyers subpoenaed Wendy Dolin's cellphone and text message records, her home phone and her late husband's company phone.
Wendy then filed her own motion stating that she had already complied with what she characterized as GSK's intrusive discovery requests, and accused GSK of excessive prying that would not end without the court's intervention.
Furthermore, Wendy claimed in her motion that GSK had sent more than 30 subpoenas and over 70 records requests, and shown the Dolin children Stewart Dolin's confidential therapy notes despite Wendy Dolin's objections.
GSK has also taken hours of deposition testimony from her and grilled her about her personal medical information and her romantic life since her husband's death, according to her motion.
On September 12, 2014, Dolin and GSK came to a "resolution" regarding Glaxo's contentious subpoena. The resolution has, to date, remained confidential.
So, in attempts to, what can be seen as dragging the case out, King & Spalding have now turned their attentions on experts called by Dolin. One such expert witness is Dr. David Healy.
Healy and colleagues, earlier this month, published a damning report on Glaxo's handling of Study 329, a clinical trial involving adolescents and the use of Paxil. Glaxo had, back in 2001, claimed Paxil was safe and efficacious in this patient population. Turns out, they were lying and just spun the results, putting thousands of teens at risk - See (Restoring Study 329)
Fair to say then that Healy is not on Glaxo's Christmas card list.
Muddy the waters:
So, what does one do with criticism, what does one do to suppress the truth?
We've seen the above tactics of GSK's highly paid law team.
1. Claim it's not our drug, ergo not our responsibility
2. Throw endless subpoenas at the person bringing the claim, including delving into her late husband's phone records in the small hope they can find a crumb of evidence that will help them suppress the truth about the Paxil suicide link in adults.
3. Show the children of the deceased personal confidential therapy notes from their father.
4. Grill the widow about her medical background and romantic interests since the death of her husband.
Way to go King & Spalding, you're basically a mirror image of the clients you represent (my opinion "Todd" - see disclaimer at foot of blog - it's been there for years)
Not satisfied with raping the memory of Stewart Dolin, King & Spalding have now turned their attention to David Healy.
Now, I'm not going to blow smoke up Healy's ass, he's one of the good guys, that's all you need to know. He raises awareness because he cannot just stand by and watch bad drugs do harm. That alone should be applauded. Healy has a lot more to lose than your average blogger (myself included). He puts his career on the line by speaking out, it's one hell of a sacrifice. He could have quite easily closed his eyes but he has something that we all have, something that only those with blackened hearts suppress.
King & Spalding nefarious, nae rabid, attack on Healy is not too dissimilar to the raping of Stewart Dolin's memory.
So, what's this motion about?
Well, according to King & Spalding, Healy should not be allowed to give evidence in the trial, he's not credible, he has a bias, he's telling people to go out and kill.
Yup, you read that last bit correctly.
GSK's motion to exclude Healy is a work of art, the kind of art many of us don't understand. It's a huge pile of excrement carefully sculptured by the expert hands of King & Spalding's finest. Ironic that this huge pile of steaming cak is called a motion!
Here's some of the reasons why they don't want Healy to give evidence.
1. Dr Healy is not qualified to testify because of his radical advocacy and extreme bias against GSK.
Oh, boo hoo. Naughty Dr. Healy having an opinion on GSK. Since when did someone with an opinion become a radical activist?
Would this actually have something to do with the fact that Healy has, in the past, given his expert opinion in the cases of Kilker vs GSK and Tobin v GSK. In both cases jury's found GSK guilty. The Kilker case saw GSK's Paxil ruled as the cause of Lyam Kilker being born with birth defects. In the Tobin case a jury found that Paxil was the proximate cause of Donald Schell taking a gun to family members, killing them, then killing himself.
GSK, don't, it appears, think so. They claim Healy, via the medium of his blog, has, in the past, claimed that “the pharmaceutical industry ‘rapes’ patients,” that he “compares GSK’s insistence on statistically-significant findings to sexual abuse by Catholic priests,” and that GSK’s “widespread cover-up of adverse events dwarfs the Nazis’ cover-up of the Holocaust.”
Here's the rebuttal of Dolin's attorneys.
Dr. Healy never stated that pharmaceutical companies “rape” patients, but specifically defined a concept that he calls “pharmaceutical rape culture” which he defines as a “concept that examines a culture in which harm from pharmaceutical products is pervasive and normalized due to societal attitudes about medicine and health care.” Dr. Healy specifically distinguishes pharmaceutical rape culture from actual rape, but draws cultural parallels to the way society reacts to the problem, i.e., blaming the victim.
Similarly, Dr. Healy never compared GSK’s insistence on statistical significance to “sexual child abuse.” Dr. Healy’s blog entry simply discusses how the Church’s use of Canon Law to disregard state and federal law parallels how pharmaceutical companies “actively attempt to over-ride the legal systems of the United States and other countries with claims that unless findings are demonstrated in controlled trials to a statistically significant extent that they simply aren’t happening.”
Finally, GSK’s reference to the Holocaust is not only inaccurate, it is offensive. Dr. Healy made a passing reference to the Nazis in his blog entry to illustrate the fact that pharmaceutical companies have actively sought to hide risks from patients and authorities using a myriad of methods. The specific quote is:
[Pharmaceutical companies] have taken astonishing steps to prevent decent reporting, or to denigrate reporting when it happens, and to manage the perception of risk rather than risks themselves. If the Nazis had access to [their] bag of tricks, there would be real and widespread doubt that the Holocaust ever happened.
At no time did Dr. Healy suggest or even insinuate pharmaceutical cover-up of adverse events “dwarfs the Nazi’s cover-up of the Holocaust.” This sort of inflammatory and misleading...
Personally, and this is just my opinion, I think that King & Spalding paralegals and other staff have, seemingly, trawled through Healy's blog as a reporter for the National Enquirer would. The sole purpose is to dismiss his beliefs whilst trying to find cherry-picked sentences that they feel may incriminate him, and, furthermore, persuade a judge that Healy is some sort of crank.
For the record, the "pharmaceutical rape culture" reference was actually a blog post by another blogger.
Is it me, or does anyone else think these highly paid attorneys can't do their job properly?
Dolin's attorneys added that Healy "...discusses topical and controversial issues and he does so with poetic license."
GSK then, quite remarkably, decided to look into the phrase, "poetic license."
Weeks after the rebuttal of Dolin's legal team GSK then attached as an exhibit a "true and correct copy of the online Oxford Dictionary definition of poetic-license."
Since when did GSK start using the Oxford Dictionary?
Here's part of a transcript from BBC Panorama. Journalist, Shelley Jofre was interviewing Glaxo spokesperson, Alistair Benbow. Ironically, the subject of definition came up.
BENBOW: Addiction is characterized by a number of different criteria which includes craving, which includes increasing the dose of drugs to get the same effect, and a number of other features and these are not exhibited by Seroxat.
JOFRE: That's not, with respect, what the Oxford English Dictionary says. It says addiction is having a compulsion to take a drug, the stopping of which produces withdrawal symptoms.
BENBOW: If you use that limited description of addictive then most prescription medicines could be defined as addictive.
So, on one hand the Oxford English Dictionary gives a true and correct definition, yet on the other hand the Oxford English Dictionary only gives a limited description!
Come on Glaxo, you can't have it both ways. If, as they claim, the dictionary (provided as an exhibit) gives a true and correct definition then Benbow telling Jofre that the same dictionary only gives limited descriptions was an actual lie... or was it just an opinion of Benbow, one that was radical and, dare I say it, biased.
One of the most ludicrous claims of GSK was that Healy, once again through the medium of his blog, suggested that "it would be reasonable for people who have lost loved ones due to alleged drug side effects to take violent revenge against pharmaceutical executives or editors of the New England Journal of Medicine."
Based on this one paragraph GSK accused Healy of inciting violence against GSK’s executives and medical journal editors.
(Insert laughter here)
(Change your underwear here)
As Dolin's attorneys put it, "Healy is expressing concern that discord is “brewing” and that absent action, there could be violence. Dr. Healy expressly condemns such violence. "
As I said a the top of this post, I'm a bit of a geek when it comes to reading court documents. Whilst reading through GSK's motions I've had Nescafe shoot down my nostrils, reached the point of apoplexy, so much so that I had to bite the arm of my chair, and, been to the bathroom to avoid any embarrassment of urinating myself.
Healy's deposition was supposed to be about science, in actual fact GSK's attorneys chose, for at least 90% of the 10 hours, to talk about Healy's blog, his financial accounts, and every other avenue that they could think of - rather than deal with the science.
If anything, these motions merely highlight the lengths GSK and their legal representation, King & Spalding, will go to as to avoid the Paxil/suicide link being, once again, publicly aired.
Other experts for Dolin have also come under fire from GSK. More mud-slinging, more cleverly crafted piles of poo.
Those King & Spalding offices, I believe, need fumigating.
Bob Fiddaman. (Using Benbow's poetic licence)
Source: Public Access to Court Documents (Pacer)
Wendy Dolin is represented by Bijan Esfandiari, Michael Baum, Frances Phares and R. Brent Wisner of Baum Hedlund Aristei & Goldman PC