Plaintiffs Plan Appeal in Anti-Nausea Drug Case
CINCINNATI (AP) _ Families who sued the manufacturer of Bendectin say they will appeal a jury’s decision that the morning sickness drug did not cause clubbed feet, missing limbs and other birth defects when pregnant women took it in prescribed doses.
A jury deliberated 41/2 hours and rendered its decision Tuesday after hearing complex testimony since Feb. 4 about scientific studies on Bendectin’s effects on humans and animals.
Bendectin was prescribed for 33 million pregnant women worldwide between 1956 and June 1983, when the company voluntarily took it off the market. About 1,000 lawsuits were consolidated in one trial in U.S. District Court.
″A jury from the general populace agreed with the overwhelming scientific evidence ... that this drug was safe,″ said Vincent Stamp, a lawyer for Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, which made Bendectin. ″I’ve never seen a jury pay more attention or try so hard to try to do the absolute best they could.″
Jerome Skinner, a lawyer for some of the families, said: ″It was close and someone had to lose. It does not indicate that we don’t believe we’re right.″
Skinner said he would ask U.S. District Judge Carl B. Rubin within 10 days to order a new trial or rule in the plaintiffs’ favor. If Rubin denies the requests, an appeal will be filed within 30 days to the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Skinner said.
Tina Schaefer of Cincinnati said her daughter was stillborn Aug. 8, 1983 and blamed Bendectin.
″I’m upset because we really feel that Bendectin did kill our baby,″ Mrs. Schaefer said. ″We’re really upset over the outcome, but all we can do is appeal.″
Deborah Wykoff, 29, of Norwood, was upset that Rubin barred children with visible defects from the courtroom because their presence might influence the jury.
″These defects are part of the facts, part of the evidence,″ Mrs. Wykoff said. ″How could the jury, as lay people, comprehend anything about molecules and embryos unless they had something to associate it with? Even if they were just shown pictures of the defects, it would have helped.″
Her daughter, Kimberly, 10, has no right hand, is missing the fibula bone in both legs and has clubbed feet and webbed toes. She’s had many operations and wears artificial legs to increase her height.
″I’ll never give up. No parent will give up because Bendectin is what caused their child’s birth defects. What happened here in Cincinnati, is by no means the end,″ Mrs. Wykoff said.
Merrell Dow said it voluntarily stopped selling Bendectin because of mounting legal costs and public concern. Company spokesman William R. Donaldson said Tuesday the company has no plans to restore Bendectin to the market.
The case was to have gone to trial in June 1984, but it was postponed indefinitely because Merrell Dow and the plaintiffs were nearing an out-of- court settlement. In July, the company and some plaintiffs agreed on a plan under which Merrell Dow would have created a $120 million fund to pay the plaintiffs.
The settlement was scuttled by the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals at the request of some of the plaintiffs, who complained it was being forced on them and precluded them from choosing to sue Merrell Dow independently.