While there are plenty of reasons to celebrate the recent sweeping settlements between Paxil manufacturer Glaxo Smith Kline (GSK) and plaintiffs alleging birth defects caused by the medication, not everything has been entirely put to rest.
The news certainly has been good for plaintiffs in the Paxil birth defects cases so far. Just eight months ago, a jury awarded a $2.5 million settlement to the plaintiff in the first major test case, the Kilker trial. Now, GSK has elected to cease pursuing litigation in nearly 200 of the current cases, including nearly 100 that haven’t yet formally gone to court. While the terms of the settlements are confidential, they clearly were satisfying to the plaintiffs involved in the matter.
However, cases remain pending that are due resolution in the fall. Additionally, there are complicated matters involving certain parts of the case, as minors are involved. This requires the intervention of the Orphan’s Court, which is sure to make proceedings move cautiously.
There are, of course, plenty of reasons to be optimistic. According to representation for both sides, the plaintiffs and defendants have shown a willingness to work together, and GSK has avoided the stereotypical “not a penny” behavior one might expect from a pharmaceutical giant.
Companies like GSK operate on budgets of billions of dollars. Amounts that seem like a lifesaving surplus to many plaintiffs are fairly small amounts to big pharma producers. More important to such companies is their reputation with the public and with agencies such as the FDA. Decades ago, the makers of Tylenol recalled their entire on-the-shelf product line because it became clear someone had tampered with the medicine and it was harming peoples’ lives. They put client safety and their reputation first over profits, which is clearly the strategy that GSK has elected to pursue for the moment.