THE MAN BEHIND THE BITTER PILL DEBATE - 1991-08-14
NEW YORK -- By now there are so many cases -- each encompassing so many details of symptoms and injuries, medical histories, hospital records or coroners' reports -- that Leonard Finz's law firm has had to design a new computer database solely to keep track of its Prozac clients. Finz's associate Jerrold Parker, jabbing at the keyboard of his desktop computer, calls up a few examples.
Here's the very first lawsuit, filed a year ago, after which "we became almost a national registry, the clearinghouse for Prozac," Finz likes to say. Rhonda Hala, a secretary in a Long Island public school, sought treatment for depression after a back injury necessitated a series of hospitalizations, Parker says, reading from his computer screen. Her doctor prescribed Prozac, the world's most widely used antidepressant. Hala subsequently slashed her body with razors and scissors and made six suicide attempts. Shortly after her doctor discontinued the drug, "the suicidal thoughts and self-destructive actions went away," Parker says. Compensatory and punitive damages sought: $150 million.
Here's Robert Ackley of Johnstown, N.Y. Forty-one, married, a family man who was prescribed Prozac in 1989 because of depression associated with "job-related stress," the computer discloses. "Within a very short period of time, he went on a circuitous route to a distant bridge in the mountains of Upstate New York, jumped off and killed himself," Parker summarizes. Compensatory and punitive damages sought by Ackley's widow: $165 million.