Antidepressant Maker’s $20 Million Secret Court Deal—Mental Health Industry Watchdog Vindicated Over Prozac Risk Exposure

The truth vindicates us and others that challenged the secret settlement and continued to expose Prozac and similar antidepressant-induced violence and suicide risks.” – CCHR

By Jan Eastgate,
President CCHR International
The Mental Health Industry Watchdog
September 19, 2019

The Louisville Courier Journal reported that Eli Lilly that produces Prozac, the antidepressant that Joseph Wesbecker’s victims blamed for his deadly shooting rampage on September 14, 1989, secretly paid the victims $20 million—worth about $41 million today—to help ensure a court verdict exonerating the drug company.[1] Wesbecker had begun taking Prozac about five weeks before his murderous spree that killed eight and wounded 12 in the Standard Gravure print shop attached to the Courier Journal in Louisville, Kentucky.[2] USA Today reported that in 1994, a fiercely litigated, 11-week trial took place in which Wesbecker’s victims and their families said the Prozac he took helped incite his murderous rampage. “On the eve of the jury’s verdict, which absolved Lilly of liability, the company made the secret payment without telling the judge overseeing the case,” media reported.[3]

Mental health industry watchdog, Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR) said the truth vindicates it and others that challenged the secret settlement and continued to expose Prozac and similar antidepressant risks. A CCHR representative had testified in the November 22, 1989 coroner’s inquest into the Wesbecker deaths about Prozac’s potential violent streak.[4] CCHR had received thousands of calls alleging similar adverse effects of the antidepressant.

The coroner, Dr. Richard Greathouse, heard that Wesbecker had been prescribed Prozac by psychiatrist Lee Coleman, who recommended it despite his patient’s earlier aversion to it. Five weeks later, Coleman described Wesbecker as “very, very agitated” and “much more nervous and anxious than he normally was,” some of which he attributed to Prozac.[5] The psychiatrist testified: “I knew that Prozac in some people could cause nervousness, can cause agitation….”[6]  Dr. Greathouse determined: “….Prozac in certain individuals has caused a violent hostile type of reaction.”[7]

During the 1994 lawsuit, information was raised about how Lilly dealt with damning evidence of serious adverse events in its arthritis drug Oraflex that Lilly withdrew from the market. “Lilly pleaded guilty to 25 criminal misdemeanor counts for failing to report adverse reactions that patients suffered from the drug, and the drug company feared that the Prozac jury would be more inclined to rule against the drugmaker if it learned of it,” reported USA Today.[8]  In exchange for the $20 million payment, the plaintiffs agreed to withhold the damaging evidence.

On September 14, 1989, in Louisville, Kentucky, Joseph T. Wesbecker, a 47-year-old pressman, killed eight people and injured twelve at his former workplace, Standard Gravure, before committing suicide.

Two Wesbecker victims confirmed the 1994 secret deal on the eve of the 30 anniversary of the shooting.[9] They told the Courier Journal they felt compelled to accept the money because they suffered egregious injuries that kept them from working again and they needed it to survive. They also said they also feared repercussions for now revealing the settlement payout.[10]

Texas attorney, Andy Vickery, who had clients that alleged damage because of antidepressants, had challenged Lilly’s secret settlement and called the tendency of Prozac and related antidepressants to cause some users to turn violent or suicidal, “a public health catastrophe.”[11] Watch the video here.

CCHR says the Wesbecker killing spree was especially significant because it sparked numerous lawsuits against antidepressant makers and allegations that psychotropic drugs, including antidepressants, can cause suicidal and violent behavior.  Including the Wesbecker murders, there have been at least 14 killings where Prozac was identified alone or in combination with other prescription mind-altering drugs resulting in 51 deaths and 72 wounded.

CCHR charges that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) of reinforcing the health catastrophe that Andy Vickery spoke of and had been put on notice of Prozac’s risks even before approving it.[12]  That risk became even clearer with the Wesbecker coroner’s inquest.

In 1989-90, using, the Freedom of Information Act, CCHR also filed for all adverse Prozac events reported to the FDA, which had already reached 3,000 with 34 people murdered by someone taking Prozac. CCHR petitioned the FDA to take Prozac off the market.  On July 26, 1991, the FDA denied the Petition, claiming, “We do not believe there is evidence that Prozac causes suicidality or other violent thinking or behavior.”[13]  However, it agreed to “convene a meeting of its Psychopharmacological Drugs Advisory Committee (PDAC) to consider the issue of suicidality associated with antidepressant drugs, including Prozac.”

At the September 20, 1991 PDAC “review,” dozens of Prozac victims and their family members told the committee of horror stories linking the drug to multiple murders, suicides and other nightmarish effects. Yet the panel voted to do nothing. It was later documented that at least five of the 10 committee members had conflicts of interest with pharmaceutical companies, including Eli Lilly. [14] Psychiatrists warned PDAC that any changes in Prozac labeling would undermine the public’s confidence in psychiatric drugs.[15]  Still, the FDA conceded that it did “not dismiss the possibility that antidepressants in general or fluoxetine in particular may have the capacity to cause untoward injurious behaviors and acts, and/or to intensify them.”[16]

During that time, Lilly launched a multi-pronged, international – and ultimately unsuccessful – public relations offensive against both CCHR and its co-founder, the Church of Scientology.[17] In 2003, a former executive of Lilly confirmed to The Hartford Courant that at the height of the controversy CCHR was generating, the company had an FDA official defending it against exposure of Prozac’s suicide and violence risks and dismissing this as merely a “public relations problem.”[18]

Watch video: By 1991 Antidepressants
were known to cause violence & suicide

It took 13 years of persistent exposure of the drug by CCHR, doctors, attorneys and families before the FDA issued a black box warning in 2004 that SSRI antidepressants could cause suicidal behavior in those younger than 18 which was later extended to age 24. The same year the FDA also issued an advisory that the drugs could cause such behavior as agitation, irritability, hostility, impulsivity, akathisia (severe restlessness associated with violent behavior), hypomania, and mania in adult and pediatric patients.[19]

Dr. David Healy, a professor in psychopharmaclogy who has testified as an expert on the suicide- and violence-inducing potential of such antidepressants was also vilified for speaking out about the potential or SSRI antidepressants to cause suicdality and violence.[20] In 1999, he told The Guardian, “Based on published data and on Lilly’s internal documents, the only reasonable estimate for the number of people who have worldwide, because of Prozac, tried to kill themselves since it was introduced would be a quarter of a million – around 25,000 will have actually succeeded.”[21] He also estimated that 90 percent of school shootings over more than a decade leading up to 2012, were linked to SSRI antidepressants,[22]  “Violence and other potentially criminal behavior caused by prescription drugs are medicine’s best kept secret,” he was further quoted in a 2013 Scientific American article.[23]

The Prozac/antidepressant catastrophe shows how far a $13.7 billion a year industry will go to protect its interests when threatened with publicity of its knowledge that its products could cause suicide, violence or death. It also shows how a government agency such as the FDA, instead of protecting consumers’ health, allows not only the psychiatric drug- but also the electroshock-industry to get away with putting millions of people’s lives at potential risk. Today, over 80 million Americans take prescription mind-altering drugs, of which 43 million are taking antidepressants.[24]  This includes 2.1 million 0-17 year olds on antidepressants, according to IQVia’s statistics for 2017. [25]

CCHR warns that because of this the “public health catastrophe” is still happening, In 2018, Martin Plöderl, Ph.D., and Michael P. Hengartner, Ph.D., reported findings from research, stating: “data strongly suggest that antidepressants can cause suicides and aggressive behavior.” They pointed out that “mainstream psychiatry will continue to claim that antidepressants effectively reduce suicide risk, despite compelling evidence to the contrary.” Yet there is “increasing certainty that antidepressants are rather ineffective and most likely cause suicidal behavior in young people….”[26]

There are also at least 27 drug regulatory agency warnings about psychotropic drug adverse effects that include mania, psychosis, hostility, aggression or homicidal ideation and 49 warn of self-harm or suicide/suicidal ideation.[27]


[1] “Prozac maker secretly paid millions to secure favorable verdict in mass shooting lawsuit,” Courier Journal, 11 Sept. 2019,

[2] “Prozac maker paid millions to secure favorable verdict in mass shooting lawsuit, victims say,” USA Today, 12 Sept. 2019,;

[3] “Prozac maker paid millions to secure favorable verdict in mass shooting lawsuit, victims say,” USA Today, 12 Sept. 2019,

[4] John Cornwell, The Power to Harm, (Penguin books) New York, 1999,


[6] citing:

[7] Neal Knox Report, “Mass Murder Link,” Shotgun News, Omaha, Nebraska, 10 Dec. 1989.

[8] “Prozac maker paid millions to secure favorable verdict in mass shooting lawsuit, victims say,” USA Today, 12 Sept. 2019,

[9] “Prozac maker paid millions to secure favorable verdict in mass shooting lawsuit, victims say,” USA Today, 12 Sept. 2019,

[10] “Prozac maker paid millions to secure favorable verdict in mass shooting lawsuit, victims say,” USA Today, 12 Sept. 2019,;

[11] Jeff Swiatek, “In Houston lawyer, Lilly has a colorful foe – Passionate adversary and able phrase-maker has engaged in 14 suits against the company,” Indianapolis Star,” 24 Apr. 2004,

[12] V. H. Sharav, “Children in clinical research: A conflict of moral values,” The American Journal of Bioethics, 3(1): 2003, citing S. Boseley, “They said it was safe,” The Guardian (UK), 30 Oct. 1999; Blower vs Eli Lilly, In the U.S. District Court for the District of Hawaii, Complaint for Damages,; David Healy, (CCHR Antidepressant Time Line)

[13] (CCHR Antidepressant Time Line)


[15] Joseph Glenmullen, M.D., Prozac Backlash, (Simon & Schuster, NY, 2000), p. 157.

[16] Baum Hedlund time line


[18] Dave Altimari, Memos Display Drug Firms’ Optimism Officials Were Confident FDA Would Back Them On Suicide, Violence Issues Involving Paxil, Prozac,” Hartford Courant, 21 Sept. 2003.

[19] “Worsening Depression and Suicidality in Patients Being Treated with Antidepressants Medications,” US Food and Drug Administration Public Health Advisory, 22 Mar. 2004.



[22] Jerome R. Corsi, “Psych meds linked to 90% of school shootings,” WND, 18 Dec. 2012,

[23] John Horgan, “What ‘60 Minutes’ Gets Wrong in Report on Mental Illness and Violence,” Scientific American,  2 Oct. 2013,

[24] IMS, Vector One: National (VONA) and Total Patient Tracker (TPT) Database, Year 2013, Extracted Apr. 2014.


[26] Martin Plöderl, PhD & Michael P. Hengartner, Ph.D., “Suicides Are Increasing – And So Are Antidepressant Prescriptions,” MIA, 23 Aug. 2018,