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Pediatric Cardiologist Testifies To Paxil-Heart Defect Link

A Rush University pediatric cardiologist testified in Pennsylvania state court Monday that exposure to GlaxoSmithKline PLC’s antidepressant drug Paxil while in utero was connected to a 12-year old boy's rare heart condition.

Expert witness Ra-id Abdulla said that a review of the medical records of plaintiff Braden Rader and those of his mother revealed that her Paxil use during pregnancy contributed to him being born with tetralogy of fallot, a combination of four heart defects.

Abdulla, the editor-in-chief of the Pediatric Cardiology Journal, told jurors that Rader's fetus was exposed to Paxil during the first 30 to 35 days of life.

“That is the critical period of time for heart development,” he said.

Rader's suit is the first of nine cases over Paxil that are queued up for trial as part of a mass tort program in the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas.

Abdulla also told jurors that Rader had undergone two heart surgeries — the first several months after he was born and the second in 2015 — and that the boy would need future invasive surgery.

“This is a lifelong commitment,” he said of the medical condition.

Abdulla did face a vigorous cross-examination from King & Spalding attorney Todd Davis, who aimed to cast doubt on the doctor's qualifications to assess the cause of birth defects and the science connecting the drug to the condition.

Davis also suggested that Abdulla reviewed incomplete medical records in his assessment and did not go beyond these records to talk to Rader's treating physicians. But the doctor testified that this was standard practice among clinicians.

“Every week in every single medical center, we meet once or twice to discuss patients we haven't seen,” he said. “We rely on medical records to come up with plans for management.”

Abdulla also testified that the link between Paxil and heart defects has already been “assessed, documented, and judged” by the American Heart Association. This did not stop Davis from pushing him on the absence of studies that revealed a direct connection between Paxil use and changes to human or animal embryos.

As the cross-examination approached the finish, Abdulla became increasingly critical of Davis's questioning, calling hisapproach “pseudoscience.” But the doctor retained his composure and kept to a level tone.

“Medically speaking, it's utter nonsense,” Abdulla said of the attorney's insistence on evidence of a direct linkage. “That's not the way we come up with conclusions.”

“The issue of Paxil causing heart disease — that ship has sailed,” he said.

Rader is represented by Adam Peavy of Bailey Peavy Bailey Cowan Heckaman PLLC and James Morris Jr. of Morris Law Firm.

The case was presented for GSK by Todd Davis of King & Spalding.

The case is Braden Rader et al. v. SmithKlineBeecham Corp. et al., case number 110903672, in the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania.

Courtesy of

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