A Kentucky circuit court judge last fall dismissed a $150 million lawsuit against Eli Lilly & co., citing a lack of evidence that its drug fluoxetine (Prozac) caused Bonnie Leitsch, of Louisville, to attempt suicide in 1989. Lietsch, one of the drug’s most vocal critics, had appeared on a number of nationwide television programs, sometimes with a representative of the Church of Scientology, to criticize the drug. The Scientology-linked Citizens Commission on Human Rights has claimed that Prozac caused suicidal behavior, a charge denied by Eli Lilly and rejected by a Federal Food and Drug Administration advisory panel.
“Sadly,” according to an Eli Lilly statement, “[Leitsch] has been a victim of the disease of depression, the Scientologists, and her own lawyers, who repeatedly tried to withdraw from the case rather than try it.” In dismissing the suit, Judge Benjamin F. Shobe wrote in his order, “Although afforded ample opportunity, plaintiffs have presented no affirmative evidence showing there is a genuine issue of material fact.” Despite this finding, Leitsch filed an appeal.
To date, 39 similar Prozac-related suits have been dismissed, leaving about 100 still pending, according to a Lilly spokesman, who said there have also been 37 criminal cases in which defendants blamed their conduct on the effects of the drug. None of these defenses has been accepted by the courts. (From “Eli Lilly cleared in Prozac Lawsuit,” Psychiatric Times, 12/92)