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A prescription antidepressant that allegedly causes severe birth defects could be shaping into a new phase of litigation over GlaxoSmithKline PLC’s Paxil. Lawyers have filed products liability and personal injury actions in state court in a Glaxo U.S. base, Philadelphia, and in Texas state courts on behalf of mothers who took Paxil during pregnancy and whose infants were born with severe heart defects. The suits were filed by Karen Barth Menzies of the Los Angeles office of Baum Hedlund, and Robert Kwok & Associates and co-counsel Clark, Depew & Tracey, both of Houston. Three of the cases were filed in Philadelphia state court, while two have been filed in Texas. Robert Kwok filed the first case to be scheduled for trial, in July 2007, in Brazoria County, Texas-the same district where W. Mark Lanier won the first and largest Vioxx verdict of $253.4 million in August 2005. Steele v. GlaxoSmithKline, No. 37373 (Brazoria Co., Texas, Dist. Ct.). Kwok filed another case in Galveston County, Texas, in which the infant since died of allegedly Paxil-related birth defects, he said. Kwok is currently reviewing six other cases. Menzies said that Paxil is the focus of three other types of litigation in which she has been involved for the last decade relating to its effect on prescription users’ minds. But a lot more lawyers are taking an interest in its alleged potential for causing birth defects, she said. Gaile L. Renegar, a spokeswoman for GlaxoSmithKline at its Research Triangle Park, N.C., headquarters, said it is too early in the litigation to comment on any specific case. The company has “acted on the data in a timely manner,” publicizing information about Paxil and congenital heart defects as it has come to light, Renegar said. Also, the company is working closely with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on the three public health advisories that the FDA has issued since December 2005, Renegar said. But she also pointed out that no causality has been established between Paxil and birth defects. Robert K. Woo Jr. of Atlanta-based King & Spalding, which is national counsel for Glaxo in this litigation, deferred comment to the company. Before the birth defect litigation, Paxil was the focus of three types of suits: Pending federal multidistrict litigation in Los Angeles involving claims of severe withdrawal symptoms. In re Paxil Products Liability Litigation, No. MDL-1574 (C.D. Calif.). A nationwide class action in federal court in Philadelphia on behalf of children whose withdrawal reactions caused them to harm themselves or take their own lives. Blain v. SmithKline Beecham Corp., No. 06-CV-1247 (E.D. Pa.). State and federal cases involving withdrawal reactions causing adults to harm themselves or take their own lives. Steinberg v. SmithKline Beecham Corp., No. CV-04-1029096 (Santa Clara Co., Calif., Super. Ct.).

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