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Norplant Gets Latest Legal Victory

September 5, 1998

HARLINGEN, Texas (AP) _ Makers of the Norplant contraceptive, who face thousands of lawsuits claiming they failed to warn consumers of potential side effects, have won the first challenge that reached a jury.

A jury in Brownsville listened to more than two weeks of medical testimony and then took less than three hours to rule in favor of Wyeth-Ayerst Laboratories on Thursday.

Maria Olivia Valles had sued the company for $625,000, blaming Norplant for a number of medical problems, including severe menstrual bleeding, headaches, anemia and mood swings.

Jurors called the case an example of lawsuit abuse, saying Ms. Valles did not seek medical help during the two years she said she experienced the symptoms.

``It was like she just wanted to hit the lotto,″ juror Angie Rivera told The Brownsville Herald.

``We’re pleased with the verdict,″ said Wyeth-Ayerst spokeswoman Audrey Ashby. ``It helps confirm that Norplant is a safe and effective option and, further, it can be an attractive option for many women seeking a safe and effective long-term contraceptive.″

Norplant users have six capsules surgically inserted into their arm to prevent pregnancy for up to five years. It was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 1991 and nearly 1 million women in the United States and 4.5 million worldwide use it, Wyeth-Ayerst said.

At least 50,000 women nationwide have sued the company, claiming it failed to warn Norplant users adequately of side effects ranging from headaches and weight gain to ovarian cysts and depression.

To date, 3,700 lawsuits are outstanding against Wyeth-Ayerst, Ms. Ashby told the newspaper. Many suits involve more than one plaintiff.

Wyeth-Ayerst, based in St. Davids, Pa., is a unit of Madison, N.J.-based American Home Products Corp., whose products include the diet-pill Redux and the estrogen-replacement drug Premarin.

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