‘Seroxat is defective’ trial, day 1

I was not sure whether to go to this because I had recently spent 3-4 hours reading through the 2016-8 ‘Case Management’ judgements (CMJ’s) and feared I might get rather bored with ‘opening’ legal arguments, but by the end of the day there were distinct elements of Courtroom Drama which made it worthwhile.

In Court 38 of the High Court there were three rows of lawyers on each side, but GSK had so many that they overflowed onto the public seats. Sadly, public attendance was thin, and got thinner after lunch when RCPsych spin doctor Nick Hodgson @nickchodgson, and the Guardian’s Felicity Lawrence @lawrencefelic both left.

The morning started with the claimants’ barristers pushing back against GSK’s characterisation of the claimants’ core argument as ‘Seroxat is Worst in Class and is therefore defective’.

‘We have NEVER said it is unsafe BECAUSE it is Worst in Class’ thundered Ms Jacqueline Perry QC, who followed up with a taster of Dr Hotopf’s report: ‘he can’t see any use for this drug on the market at all’. And then a comparison with ‘five stepladders: you might want a red one, but it might have wobbly screws’. The suggestion was that if any doctor (or patient) did choose Seroxat over its rival SSRIs, it would be for trivial reasons, and the supplier had painted over its lack of safety with the distracting trivia.

Then things did get quite semantic: the distinction between ‘efficacy’ and ‘benefit’, for example. Which was puzzling because it had supposedly been ruled that only risk (in discontinuation) and not risk/benefit ratio was to be considered.

But before lunch the claimants started to provide more tasters of their forthcoming expert evidence, and how they were going to take down GSK’s experts, especially their lead Dr Allan Young FRCPsych, currently (according to his Maudsley biography) Chair of the RCPsych Psychopharmacology committee.

After lunch Ms Perry started off with how GSK had ‘by order of the regulator’ to remove ‘this product is not addictive’ from Seroxat’s PIL (Patient Information Leaflet). Then came an outline of Malcolm Lader’s report in which he describes the various studies GSK should have done but had not, and his opinion on the high ‘risk of dependence’.

Next the court heard that David Healy’s report included ‘more information since 2010’ on ‘suicidality’ and ‘sexual dysfunction’. There was a reference to ghostwriting. Ms Perry rounded off with a go at ‘my learned friends’ appearing for GSK, suggesting that they would simply rely on the fact they had got Seroxat licensed by the UK regulator.

Although the claimants will have another couple of hours tomorrow (at least) to finish their ‘opening’, GSK’s barrister was allowed to give a brief response today. He sounded almost upset that the claimants had ‘by sleight of hand’ given a ‘completely different’ argument than before on ‘risk benefit’. The implication (as I heard it) was that they had somehow managed to fool the judge. I am no lawyer, but unless he can substantiate that in the next 2-3 days, it seems like a risky strategy.

(Next: day 2)




About Dr Neil MacFarlane MRCPsych

Independent Psychiatrist providing culturally informed mental health opinion, advice, and a few new facts. Based near London, UK. Main qualifications: BA MBBS MA MRCPsych.

2 responses to “‘Seroxat is defective’ trial, day 1”

  1. Deirdre Doherty says :

    Thank you very much for your reports.

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