Case Studies

Epstein Becker Green Obtains Dismissal of Drug Suit

On October 5, 2011, Epstein Becker Green obtained summary judgment on behalf of its client Sunovion Pharmaceuticals ("Sunovion") after oral argument before the Hon. Stefan R. Underhill in a U.S. District Court in Bridgeport, Connecticut, in the case of Swoverland v. GlaxoSmithKline.

The plaintiff alleged that his use in combination of Sunovion's Lunesta, a sleep aid, and GlaxoSmithKline's ("GSK's") Paxil, an anti-depressant, caused depression, erratic behavior, and suicidal ideation, which resulted in an unsuccessful attempt to kill both himself and his daughter. As a result of the incident, plaintiff was sentenced to prison and forfeited his position as a prison guard. Epstein Becker Green defended the case on the basis that Sunovion had adequately warned of the drug's potential risks and that there was no causal connection between any alleged failure to warn and the treating physician's prescription of the drug.

In granting summary judgment to Sunovion, the court reaffirmed Connecticut's adherence to the "learned intermediary doctrine," which provides that adequate warnings to a prescribing physician makes it unnecessary for a manufacturer of a prescription drug to warn patients directly. Further, the court rejected plaintiff's assertion that the learned intermediary doctrine should not apply in this case either because Lunesta directly advertised to the patient or over promoted the product. The court held that there was no factual basis in the record to support the application of either of these exceptions to the learned intermediary doctrine and that, as a matter of law, Connecticut did not recognize these exceptions.

The Epstein Becker Green team that represented Sunovion included New York attorneys William A. Ruskin and Victoria M. Sloan.