Lawyers for Pfizer Inc. want a judge to dismiss the pharmaceutical company as a defendant in a lawsuit brought by a man who claims its anti-smoking medication was a factor in his psychotic breakdown that led him to gouge his eyes out while in jail.
In papers filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, Pfizer’s attorneys say the product label warning for Chantix was adequate and also argue that manufacturers of such prescription drugs have an obligation to provide warnings to doctors, but not to patients like plaintiff Michael Shabsis.
“As a matter of law, Pfizer’s duty to warn runs only to plaintiff’s physician, not to plaintiff or the public at large,” the drug company’s lawyers state in court papers filed Aug. 24.
Shabsis filed his lawsuit in December 2014, alleging negligence, excessive force, battery and products liability. He claims his breakdown occurred “in part or in whole” because he was taking Chantix.
Named as defendants along with Pfizer are the University of California Board of Regents, Resnick Neuropsychiatric Hospital at UCLA, Dr. Philip Cogen, Los Angeles County and former Sheriff Lee Baca. Cogen worked at Resnick Hospital and prescribed Chantix to Shabsis, the suit says.
According to Pfizer’s lawyers’ court papers, since 2009 the FDA-approved Chantix has included a box label warning of possible “serious neuropsychiatric events” that include “worsening pre-existing psychiatric illness and attempted suicide.”
The label further warns that the risks of Chantix “should be weighed against the benefits of its use.” The label also provided a warning notice to Cogen before he prescribed the medicine to Shabis, the suit states.
Pfizer’s lawyers also maintain in their court papers that federal law supersedes Shabsis’ state law claims. A hearing on the dismissal motion is scheduled Sept. 29 before Judge Marc Marmaro.
According to the lawsuit, Shabsis began using Chantix in September 2013 to break a smoking habit, with a prescription provided by Cogen. Four months later, he says he suffered a psychotic breakdown that led to him committing violent behavior toward his grandfather.
Shabsis was arrested and taken to the Twin Towers jail, where he was put in isolation despite being “in the midst of a severe manic episode,” the suit states. He says he became “delirious and delusional” while by himself in a cell.
The pain became so intense and the glare of the lights so disturbing that on Jan. 2, 2014, Shabsis used “his own hands and fingers to gouge out both his eyes as he believed he was in hell,” according to his lawsuit.
—City News Service
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