Pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) is about to receive a few unhappy visitors with some hefty demands. On September 26, consumer activists and survivors of the drug company's popular antidepressant Paxil will converge on GSK's Philadelphia headquarters to demand the company come clean about the drug's dangerous side effects. Proven to induce drug dependency and suicidal behavior, these groups will insist the drug be taken off the market.
"Paxil is a dangerous and defective drug. That is absolutely the case," said Rob Robinson, organizer of what is being called the "Paxil Protest," in a press release. "The swath of devastation, misery and sometimes death which Paxil has unleashed the world over is simply staggering. Yet GlaxoSmithKline has done everything in its power to keep the sinister truth about Paxil from going public. What's at stake for the company is a multi-billion dollar revenue stream that the sales of Paxil have generated for almost 10 years."
One of the "sinister truth(s)" Robinson and his collaborators in the Paxil Protest hope to expose is drug dependency. Paxil, sold as Seroxat in the United Kingdom, has been known to cause severe withdrawal symptoms in patients. Paxil can also cross the placental barrier in pregnant users, say some critics, causing Neonatal Withdrawal Syndrome. These infants may then show signs of irritability, hyperactivity, abnormal sleep patterns, vomiting, diarrhea, weight loss and failure to gain weight.
Paxil is also accompanied by short- and long-term side effects. Studies show that the drug causes suicidal, homicidal or otherwise violent behaviors in some users. One Wyoming patient suffering from these violent side effects killed his wife, daughter and granddaughter before taking his own life. Ruling on this case, the jury found Paxil, not the patient, guilty for these tragic deaths. GSK paid $8 million in damages.
Since the FDA approved Paxil in 1992, approximately 5,000 U.S. citizens – and thousands more worldwide – have sued GSK. Most of these people feel they were not sufficiently warned in advance of the drug's side effects and addictive properties. However, GSK certainly must have known of the drug's potential dangers since, in clinical trials, up to 50 percent of patients taking Paxil experienced such withdrawals. And withdrawal is not the only problem.
According to the Paxil Protest website, http://www.paxilprotest.com, hundreds more lawsuits have been filed against GSK by families who claim Paxil drove a loved one to suicide. One account on the site highlights the death of a child who left the following note written in crayon before hanging herself from a doorknob: "Mom, by the time you find me, I'll be dead. I love you with all my heart. Don't worry, Jesus is with me." The mother of this young girl says she tried to get the child's doctor to take her off Paxil when she suspected her daughter was experiencing adverse side effects. The doctor refused.
The "Paxil Protest" intends to bring to light the hidden horrors of a drug that actually claims to improve quality of life – hidden horrors that are not new to GSK, according to the Paxil Protest website. "The Paxil Protest will further expose the history of Paxil's development – a history in which GlaxoSmithKline knew even before Paxil was approved that its drug could induce suicidality, dependence and withdrawal," the site reads. "Furthermore, the GlaxoSmithKline (formerly SKB) conspired to hide these effects from the Food and Drug Administration in order to win approval for the drug."
Although the Paxil Protest is aimed at GSK, its website makes it clear that the protest is not meant to cast GSK as a "bad company." Rather, those invited to participate in the protest include individuals whose lives have been directly affected by Paxil: Ex-users and the loved ones of victims alike. The protest is not limited to just survivors or victims of Paxil; those who have been impacted by other SSRI or SNRI drugs, such as Cymbalta, Effexor, Luvox, Prozac, Strattera and Zoloft are invited to participate as well. "Why non-Paxil victims? Because there is a far wider issue at stake here; one that, by default presents a powerful subtext for this action," the Paxil Protest website reads. "As such we would be delighted for those individuals and families to join forces with us."
Although the number of people expected to attend the protest is unknown, information on the event is being dispersed worldwide. The Paxil Protest website offers extensive travel and lodging information to help as many people get to Philadelphia as possible. In addition to increasing public awareness of the drug and its side effects over the three-day demonstration, participants in the event also have some specific demands for GSK. Some of the heartiest requests include the immediate halt of the manufacture of Paxil, an immediate worldwide drug safety recall for Paxil and a public apology via live web cast to Paxil victims and survivors by J.P. Garner, Chief Executive officer of GSK.
The Paxil Protest website was launched August 8, 2005 to offer both information about the protest and information on Paxil previously unavailable to the public. Just three weeks after its launch, the site received more than a quarter of a million hits. "My goal was to make it as easy as possible for the public to get the truth about Paxil – the sinister truth which GlaxoSmithKline hides from the world," Robinson said in a press release. The site also offers information on how to safely end the use of Paxil.
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