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‘Fen-Phen’ Class Action Suit OK’d

August 27, 1999

PHILADELPHIA (AP) _ A federal judge has certified a class-action suit by users of the ``fen-phen″ diet drug combination seeking payments to have medical checkups for potential heart and lung problems.

The decision Thursday by U.S. District Judge Louis C. Bechtle allows the federal suit filed last year against American Home Products to proceed to trial.

Pondimin and Redux, two prescription diet drugs often taken in combination, were taken off the market in 1997 at the request of the Food and Drug Administration after some users developed heart-valve damage. The combination was popularly known as ``fen-phen,″ a reference to the first syllables of the chemicals used to make the drugs.

An estimated 6 million people took the drugs, though AHP contends the majority used them for less than 30 days.

More than 4,000 lawsuits nationwide have been filed against the company by people who say they suffer heart and lung problems because of the pills.

American Home denies any wrongdoing.

The Philadelphia class-action seeks to have AHP pay for checkups for people who used the drugs for 30 days or more between 1992 and 1997.

Residents in six other states are excluded from the Philadelphia-based suit because similar suits are pending in those states, Bechtle ruled.

News of the ruling weighed heavily on AHP’s stock, which fell more than 7 percent in today’s trading. The stock was down $3.50 at $42.50 a share just before noon on the New York Stock Exchange.

The ruling comes just as AHP has agreed to pay more than 36,000 women to settle claims that the implantable contraceptive device Norplant caused headaches, irregular menstrual bleeding, nausea and depression.

AHP, the parent of Norplant maker Wyeth-Ayerst Laboratories, did not admit any wrongdoing in the settlement, saying Thursday it was ``purely a business decision.″

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