Drugmaker Forest Laboratories Inc. won a ruling that it doesn’t have to defend a group lawsuit claiming the company illegally marketed the antidepressants Celexa and Lexapro to patients under the age of 18.
U.S. District Judge Nathaniel Gorton in Boston yesterday denied class certification to plaintiffs who claim Forest marketed to children without approval of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Gorton ruled that patients who sued under California law failed to show that Forest was “likely to deceive” doctors, and that the company’s sales staff misled each of them. Such claims require “individual, plaintiff-specific determinations,” and the patients lack common proof, he wrote.
Patients who sued must show that each physician who prescribed Celexa “was actually exposed to the allegedly false statements made by Forest’s representatives,” Gorton ruled. “It is not sufficient simply to presume all doctors who prescribed Celexa were recipients of those misrepresentations.”
A spokesman for New York-based Forest, Frank Murdolo, didn’t immediately return a call seeking comment. Forest filed its opposition to class certification under court seal.
A Forest unit agreed in September 2010 to plead guilty and pay $313 million to resolve criminal charges and civil False Claims Act allegations related to Celexa, Lexapro and its Levothroid thyroid drug. The allegations also involved illegal promotion of Celexa for use in treating children and adolescents suffering from depression.
An attorney who sued on behalf of children who received Lexapro and Celexa said plaintiffs were disappointed with the ruling and will pursue the cases state by state.
“The evidence we have obtained through this litigation makes clear that the plaintiffs have a very strong case on the merits, and we intend to pursue that,” said the lawyer, Christopher L. Coffin of New Orleans-based Pendley, Baudin & Coffin LLP.
“The evidence we have developed makes clear that Forest committed fraud and promoted a drug for use in children that had not been shown to be effective,” Coffin said.
The case is Celexa and Lexapro Marketing and Sales Practices Litigation, 09-md-2067, U.S. District Court, District of Massachusetts (Boston).