In 2003, the pharmaceutical industry passed out $16.4 billion worth of free drug samples to doctors. These so-called free samples are literally killing people. Two young lads who were lucky enough to get free samples of Zoloft are now sitting in prison.
After visits to their family doctors, Christopher Pittman and Zachary Schmidkunz were both sent home with a bag of Zoloft samples with no warnings about the drug's side effects. They both went on to commit murder, were sent to prison, and are now waiting for hearings on their appeals.
These lethal selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor antidepressants (SSRIs) are being passed out to kids like candy. Dr Thomas Moore, MD, with the Drug Safety Research group, conducted a study on the use of antidepressant drugs with children that showed that in the 4-period of 1998 to 2001, the use of SSRIs with children doubled and in 90% of the cases the drugs were prescribed off-label to kids for uses not approved by the FDA.
There is "no scientific evidence that says that combination therapy is effective in these disorders and I know of no evidence that it is safe either," he says.
Yet the study found that 17% of the children were taking drugs that were ineffective in clinical trials, and 42% were taking two or more antidepressant drugs.
This is exactly what happened to 12-year-old Christopher Pittman, according to his family members.
He was prescribed Paxil shortly before he went to live with his grandparents. When he needed a refill, his grandparents took him to their family doctor and because the doctor had no samples of Paxil, he sent Christopher home with samples of Zoloft with instructions written on the outside of the bag.
Forty-eight hours after the Zoloft dosage was increased to 200 milligrams, Christopher shot both of his grandparents in the bed where they slept, set the house on fire, and took off in his grandfather's pickup truck with a loaded gun. The following morning two hunters said they found the 12-year old boy wandering around in the woods acting hysterical, hollering and screaming, and waiving a fully cocked and loaded gun around.
Neither Paxil or Zoloft is approved for pediatric use and thus, the prescriptions Christopher received were off-label. A most alarming fact that surfaced during the criminal trial, was that even though the family doctor apparently passes out free samples of drugs on regular basis, he testified that he was not aware of the association between SSRIs and violent behavior, towards self or others.
In addition, it was revealed that Christopher was not weaned off the Paxil before he was placed on Zoloft even though it is known that Paxil has a history of serious withdrawal side effects.
The lead attorney in Christopher's case is Andy Vickery, of the Houston, Texas law firm Vickery & Waldner, LLP, who has spent the better part of a decade representing families who have been harmed by SSRIs.
In 2001, Mr Vickery, was the lead attorney in a landmark case against Paxil maker GlaxoSmithKiline brought by the family members of Donald Schell, a retired oil-rig worker who had been on Paxil for just 2 days when he shot and killed his wife, daughter and granddaughter, before shooting himself. The jury in the case found that Paxil "can cause some individuals to commit suicide and/or homicide" and awarded $8 million to the surviving family members.
On the West Coast, Los Angeles based, Baum Hedlund law firm partner, Karen Barth Menzies, has also been litigating claims for more than a decade, involving injuries associated with SSRIs. Although a plaintiffs attorney, due to her extensive work in SSRI cases, Ms Menzies was recruited to join the "dream team" to help defend Christopher.