Sunovion Pharmaceuticals obtained summary judgment on October 5, 2011 after oral argument before the Hon. Stefan R. Underhill in federal court in Bridgeport, Connecticut in the case of Swoverland v. GlaxoSmithKline, No. 3:10cv-914. Co-Defendant GlaxoSmithKline, represented by King & Spalding, also obtained summary judgment. William A. Ruskin and Victoria Sloan of Epstein Becker & Green represented Sunovion.
The plaintiff alleged that his use in combination of Sunovion’s Lunesta, a sleep aid, and GSK’s Paxil, an anti-depressant, caused depression and suicidal ideation, which resulted in an unsuccessful attempt to kill both himself and his daughter. As a result of the incident, plaintiff was sentenced to prison and forfeited his position as a prison guard. Sunovion defended the case on the basis that it adequately warned of the drug’s potential risks and that there was no causal connection between any alleged failure to warn and the treating physician’s prescription of the drug.
In granting summary judgment to Sunovion, the court reaffirmed Connecticut’s adherence to the learned intermediary doctrine on the basis of the Connecticut Supreme Court's 2001 decision in Vitanza v. Upjohn, 257 Conn 365. Judge Underhill described the learned intermediary doctrine as "essentially hold[ing] that because there is, or when there is a traditional physician/patient relationship, because the physician is the decision-maker as to whether a particular drug will be used by the ultimate consumer, it is the adequacy of the warnings to the physician that matter. The Court also rejected plaintiff’s assertion that the learned intermediary doctrine should not apply in this case either because Lunesta directly advertised to the patient or over-promoted the product. The Court held that there was no factual basis in the record to support the application of either of these exceptions to the learned intermediary doctrine and that, as a matter of law, Connecticut did not recognize these exceptions.