Tuesday, October 23, 2001 Volume 67, Issue 44



New scapegoat found for shooting

Michael Ahlf

Just when we thought the world couldn't possibly handle more lawsuits, yet another gem. Parents of Columbine shooting victims, not content just to attack the media, video games, school officials, the sheriff's department and the shooters' parents, have now set their sights on a new target. This time, it's Solvay Pharmaceuticals Inc. -- makers of the drug Luvox. According to coroners' reports, Eric Harris, one of the Columbine gunmen, was taking the drug at the time of the shooting.

Luvox is a drug marketed to treat obsessive-compulsive disorder and depression, but it has side effects. Solvay freely admits this in the drug's literature -- it says that
approximately 1 percent of studied patients with depression developed hypomania or mania.

The lawsuit claims, meanwhile, that Harris' doctor was uninformed concerning the risk by Solvay, and that the drug caused Harris to become manic and psychotic, leading
to the shooting.

At first, I laughed -- this seems to be just the sort of case that ought to get thrown out by the first judge to see it. I was able to reach the medical sheets on Luvox in less
than two minutes on the web, so claiming Solvay failed to inform the doctor adequately about the risk seems like a long shot.

On the other hand, it sets a dangerous precedent. If drug companies who market a product designed to help people with mental disease are held liable for patients who
get worse or develop more destructive behavior, they might just stop making the drugs.

It also seems to be yet another cop-out. Ever since Columbine, I have had two levels of blame. One level of blame I hold on school officials, who might have noticed
the odd behaviors of the gunmen earlier, and brought it up with the parents. That this apparently didn't happen is their fault.

The real blame, however, lies with the parents of Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold. These are the people who should have watched over the children and helped them with
their problems.

The parents should have done their part. Harris' parents had to know that he was being medicated, after all, they had to buy the pills. They should have looked into the
condition, and gotten him help for it. If Harris was obsessive-compulsive or depressive, he should have been in therapy as well as receiving the drugs.

Then again, they have claimed over and over that they never saw the shootings coming, the true sign of oblivious and unworthy parents who didn't pay enough attention.

When tragedy strikes, it's easy to grab the nearest lawyer and go after every party involved in the incident, but trying to drag the drug company in on this one is just plain
silly. These drugs are designed to help people, after all.

Harris' doctor certainly should have consulted information about the drug before prescribing it -- the easy availability of the drug's fact sheets state that if he truly didn't
know about the potential side effects, he wasn't doing his job and should be under the lens of a malpractice lawsuit.

Ahlf, a senior electrical engineering 
major, can be reached at mahlf@mail.uh.edu.

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