New Concerns Over Anti-DepressantApr 15, 2004 | www.cbsnews.com
Cassie Geisenhof's pretty face masked her turbulent home life. Growing up in foster care, she was just 15 when a doctor prescribed Serzone for her depression.
Three months later, Cassie suffered irreversible liver damage. Doctors rushed her in for an emergency liver transplant and blamed the Serzone.
Serzone, the brand name for "nefazodone," is linked to dozens of liver failures including at least 21 deaths in the U.S., reports CBS News Correspondent Sharyl Attkisson.
The FDA forced Bristol Myers Squibb to add a serious liver warning two years ago, but problems continued.
The drug maker recently stopped selling Serzone in Canada, citing "adverse events including liver failure." It's also pulled the plug on Serzone in Europe, and will do so next month in Australia and New Zealand.
But here in the U.S., Serzone and the generic nefazodone remain on pharmacy shelves.
Consumer advocates petitioned the FDA to ban the drug a year ago. But after no action, they're now suing the FDA to try to get it off the market.
"Is there any legitimate reason this drug should still be sold in the U.S. when it's been taken off the market in other places for the same dangers?" Attkisson asked Dr. Sidney Wolfe, Public Citizen.
"From a financial perspective, the only reason is to make money for Bristol Myers Squibb," answered the consumer advocate. "From a health perspective there is no justification for this drug being on the market."
The FDA says it's studying the lawsuit.
Bristol Myers defends Serzone as "an important therapeutic option." But even the company now says it's not the first choice it's for patients "who have not responded to other medication."
As for Cassie she suffered constant problems after her liver transplant, lapsing into a coma.
In the past five months, she was out of the hospital once just long enough to pose for a picture on Christmas Eve.
She spent the rest of her time rejecting her transplanted liver and slipping away. Cassie died earlier this week in a Minneapolis hospital, adding to the Serzone linked deaths and to the reasons critics want the drug banned.