Neurontin Settlement Reached in Lawsuit Over Suicide of Retired Minister

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By: Staff Writers | Published: May 20th, 2010

Pfizer Inc. has agreed to settle a Neurontin wrongful death lawsuit brought by the family of a minister who allegedly committed suicide due to side effects of the epilepsy medication, which is often used off-label to control pain and mood swings.  

The lawsuit was brought by the family of Richard Smith, a retired Church of Christ minister from Nashville, Tennessee, who committed suicide in May 2004 after being prescribed the drug to treat chronic pain following neck and back surgeries. While Pfizer alleged Smith killed himself due to the intense pain and depression, the family says that the side effect of Neurontin on his mind made him contemplate and carry out suicide.

Neurontin (gabapentin) is an epilepsy medication approved by the FDA in 1983, which generated $387 million in sales for Pfizer in 2008.

There are currently about 1,200 Neurontin lawsuits pending against Pfizer, most of which have been brought by plaintiffs who say that Neurontin increased the risk of suicide. In 2008, the FDA required Neurontin and similar epilepsy drugs to begin carrying label warnings alerting users to the risk of suicidal thoughts. All federal lawsuits over Neurontin have been consolidated before U.S. District Judge Patti B. Saris.

While details of the Neurontin settlement between Pfizer and Smith’s family have not been released, it is at least the second Neurontin suicide lawsuit to settle since March, when a Boston jury handed down a $140 million verdict against the company for illegally marketing Neurontin for off-label purposes.

While doctors are free to prescribe drugs for uses not approved by the FDA, manufacturers are prohibited from marketing the drugs for such uses that they have not established are safe and effective.

In 2004, Parke-Davis, a division of Warner-Lambert that was acquired by Pfizer, paid $430 million to the U.S. Justice Department over claims that they were illegally promoting Neurontin for off-label uses, including control of mood swings. Last fall, Pfizer paid the Justice Department $2.3 billion to settle a number of off-label marketing claims, which included its marketing of Neurontin.

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There Are 9 Comments So Far • (Add Your Comments)

  1. I was issued Neurotin back in June 2005 at Tripler Army Medical Center to treat the pain around the damaged C5-C6 area of my neck. I have been taking it ever since. Now I recieve it from Walter Reed Medical Center, and they have boosted me up to 2,700mg a day.
    I experience the jitters and shakes, if I do not eat right away in the morning, after taking the medication. I also get “spaced out” and can’t remember exactly what I did that morning. Other than those two issues, I have experienced the similar symptons of those that I have read about on the Internet.
    Thank you for sharing this information. I am going back to Walter Reed next month for an appointment and see what other medications they have to treat my neck.

  2. please get off that drug….NOW!!!!!!!! I ALMOST LOST MY LIFE 7 YRS AGO,WAS IN A COMA ON LIFE SUPPORT FOR 7 DAYS…BY THE GOOD LORD I AM ALIVE…BUT NOT WITHOUT ALOT OF HEALTH ISSUES DUE TO THIS DRUG…..ATLEAST YOU KNOW THE WARNINGS…I WAS TOLD IT WAS SAFE……AND WAS NOT GIVEN TO ME FOR THE F.DA APPROVED REASONS………PLEASE READ WHATYOU TAKE THESE DAYS……..HAD I READ ABOUT THIS PRODUCT I WOULD HAVE NOT TAKEN IT,AND KNOWN THE EFFECTS PLEASE STOP IT NOW

  3. I know the family of this minister. They were devastated by his suicide.
    Because of my knowing about this lawsuit, I told two doctors at Vanderbilt Medical Center that I would absolutely not take Neurontin for peripheral neuropathy on the bottom of my feet caused by Taxotere, a chemotherapy drug. Yes, maybe they saved my life, which I’ll lose anyway eventually, but I’m more comfortable with my neuropathy that I would be taking Neurontin knowing what I know.

  4. I have not endeared myself to physicians when I tell them why I won’t take Neurontin. Can’t they just accept how patients have been harmed, or believe they have been harmed by certain drugs? MD does not stand for Medical Deity.

  5. Stay off the neurontin. It caused me to have absence status seizures and now I have more brain damage and more severe epileptic seizures after having two brain surgeries to help reduce my seizures. I was doing great until I took the neurontin for a headache. It wasn’t until I saw NBC
    Dateline and heard from one of Pfizers former employees that the drug can cause epiletic seizures for people even if they don’t have epilepsy.

  6. I am so grateful for this article. I too was prescribed this drug for “menopause” and for chronic neck/head pain due to workplace accident. It almost did kill me. I experienced brain toxicity, so many dozens of muscle problems, tinnitus, and finally thoughts of suicide. It took me months to recover after I came off it. And, I found out that all this information is well known. I am so disillusioned with doctors. the worse of it is that in Canada the Supreme Court ruled that only those prescribed Neurontin and not the generic brand could be included in the class action suit against Pfizer. AAr.

  7. I attempted suicide in 1999 after being on neurontin and other meds in N.J. I currently live in Florida. Is it too late to for me to recieve an award?

  8. my friend has been on neurontin for back pain for a while now and recently we have watched her have what appears to be seizures.she just completely looks lost and doesn’t respond for a couple seconds and then she’s back. we’ve watched her do this 2 times now, she’s been to the Dr. and of course they gave her ANOTHER drug to take WITH the neurontin. she has also in the last few months been diagnosed with severe depression. I will be advising her to get herself off of this medication!

  9. Ive been on Neurontin for two years now, I don\’t understand how im still alive and haven\’t offed myself. please email I need help.

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