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Trial Starts Charging Uterus Damage By Nation’s Most-Used IUD

November 12, 1985

BALTIMORE (AP) _ Jury selection began Tuesday for a consolidated trial of 16 lawsuits against the G.D. Searle & Co. by women who blame the Copper 7 intrauterine device for pelvic inflammations, ectopic pregnancies or perforations of the uterus.

U.S. District Judge Joseph H. Young has set aside two to three months for the trial, which could set a precedent for the disposition of more than 600 lawsuits by women who say they have suffered painful inflammations and some permanent uterine damage after using the birth control device.

Most of the cases being handled here involve inflammation, which could cause permanent infertility. Two women suffered perforations of the uterus, requiring surgery to remove the uterus, and two had ectopic pregnancies, in which the fertilized egg settled in the Fallopian tube instead of the womb.

Searle, based in Skokie, Ill., has maintained in court documents that the Copper 7, the nation’s most widely prescribed IUD, ″does not and cannot cause the various injuries plaintiffs claim.″

The nation’s other major IUD, the Dalkon Shield, was pulled off the market by the A.H. Robins Co. in 1974 because of nearly $1 billion in health claims.

The 16 women suing Searle do not specify the monetary damages they are seeking, but they have demanded that Searle admit it knew of the IUD’s potential health hazards and did not adequately warn doctors and patients.

Over the last three years, Young has consolidated 26 cases from at least 12 states and Ontario, Canada, but 10 cases have been dismissed or settled out of court.

Opening statements were scheduled tentatively for Friday.

Searle attorney Paul F. Strain has emphasized that the Copper 7 is not legally a ″device,″ like the Dalkon Shield. Copper 7 has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration as a prescription drug.

Because of that FDA approval, the jury cannot declare that the Copper 7 is ″unreasonably dangerous,″ Strain has said.

But the original plaintiff in the case, Sue Ellen Marder of Baltimore, who suffered pelvic inflammation, noted that Searle briefly sold Copper 7 as a device in 1971 until the FDA declared it a drug and forced the company to pull it off the market until tests could be conducted on animals and humans. Copper 7 returned to the market as an FDA-approved prescription drug in 1974.

In its defense, Searle plans to show that other factors were responsible for the ailment suffered by each woman.

Strain said some of the women have suffered from sexually transmitted diseases, including gonorrhea and chlamydia, which are known to cause pelvic inflammations.

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