Monday, June 20, 2005

There's No Pill For This

Regular readers will know that I am neither a friend to big pharmas nor unsympathetic to people in pain. But sheesh...

The StarTribune's "A battle for Woody" takes the side of a widow against the drug company she claims failed to warn her against potential side effects of Zoloft.

Kimberly Witczak is in federal court suing Pfizer, maker of Zoloft, for not sufficiently warning "doctors and patients about the drug's potential to cause suicidial tendencies, a claim that Pfizer denies."

"Witczak disputes assertions that her husband, Tim — Woody to his friends — must have been depressed to commit such an ultimate act." In fact, two suicide support groups she attended told her so, but her first clues might've come earlier:

Anxiety over the new job and the new business caused Woody to have trouble sleeping, Witczak said, and his family doctor prescribed Zoloft. For the next two weeks Kimberly Witczak [an advertising account manager] was on assignment in New Zealand. Back home, Woody experienced night sweats, diarrhea and physical agitation.

One evening shortly after Witczak returned from New Zealand, she was in the kitchen when Woody entered after aimlessly driving around town.

"He was drenched. He'd been driving all day. He sat on the kitchen floor in a fetal position and said, 'Kim, you gotta help me. My head's outside my body,' " she recalled.

Kim calmed Woody down, and things seemed to go smoother, although he complained about gruesome nightmares that he refused to describe.

On Monday, Aug. 4, Witczak left for an assignment in Detroit. She talked to Woody on Tuesday morning and described him as excited from a successful sales call. They booked a flight to St. Louis for a friend's wedding in October and Woody booked a separate flight to Las Vegas for a bachelor party the following weekend. When Witczak called late Tuesday, there was a different Woody on the phone, she said. He seemed "completely distracted. He was in a different state of mind."

Clearly, Pfizer should have done something.

I respectfully ask, what kind of warning from the drug company would be more compelling than seeing one's husband writhing on the floor in despair and begging for help? See, my father committed suicide, though our family did all we could. And I experienced a depressive episode where, thanks to my dad's experience, I was able to ask for help. And I got it.

Kimberly, I'm sorry, but there's no class action law firm in the country that can assuage guilt.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

This story has reawoken in the press now (Nov 15). While I feel terrible for her loss, Kimberly seems to be missing the point.

Anyone taking Zoloft, Paxil, Prozac, etc should be in touch with a doctor as they take the med. It should also be realized that most people who take these meds do it because they are depressed. Anxiety is really an extension of depression in many cases.

The SSRI class of drugs has helped many (including myself). Yes they have issues -- there is no magic pill. But families also have issues (and where was Kimberely while the illness was getting worse).

The death is a tragedy. A lawsuit won't fix that. These drugs are basically safe if people are responsible in using them.

4:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ten years ago I also was prescribed Zoloft for insomnia. I remember having terrible reaction to this drug, similar to the one described by Kimberly. Literally days after taking Zoloft I became depressed and started having panic attacks. I had diaharrea 10-15 times a day. I could not eat or sleep and began losing weight. A friend, who talked to me on the phone during that time, said I sounded "weered", not at all like I usally was.

Luckily, I did not stay on the drug for long. I am sure I would not be among the living had I continued to take it.

I have no doubts that Kimberly's hasband's death could be direct result of this awful medication.

6:05 PM  

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