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Paper: Diet Drug Maker Settles Suit

April 9, 1999

DALLAS (AP) _ A drug maker agreed to a settlement of the nation’s first lawsuit to go to trial alleging heart damage by the diet drug combination fen-phen.

The settlement comes a week into the presentation of Sandra Moore’s case against American Home Products Corp. Ms. Moore had sought $110 million in damages.

American Home, the world’s seventh-largest drug maker, confirmed today that it had agreed to a deal. The company offered no details, but The Dallas Morning News, citing unidentified sources, reported that the company will pay $500,000.

``The matter has been resolved to the parties’ mutual satisfaction,″ said attorney Bill Sims, adding that the company acted responsibly in marketing and monitoring the diet drugs.

Ms. Moore, a retired teacher who now lives in Missoula, Mont., claims she wasn’t warned about the risks of taking fenfluramine, half of the fen-phen combination, and Redux, a similar product. Both were marketed by Wyeth-Ayerst Laboratories, a subsidiary of American Home.

The Madison, N.J.-based drug maker has been hit with hundreds of lawsuits since it pulled fenfluramine and Redux off the market in 1997 at the Food and Drug Administration’s request. A Mayo Clinic study had linked the drugs to potentially fatal heart valve damage.

The other half of fen-phen, phentermine, was never associated with that damage when taken alone and is still on the market.

The settlement averts a jury verdict in a case that was being closely followed by others with similar claims against the company.

Ms. Moore’s lawyer, Michael McGartland, said the fact that the lawsuit was the first of its kind to go before a jury had no influence over the decision to settle.

``Our concern has never been about the rest of the cases,″ McGartland said. ``It was Sandra Moore’s case, and we were just trying not to lose sight of that.″

Ms. Moore claimed the company knew heart problems could result from taking fen-phen but hid them to maximize profits. Defense attorneys argued she has a mild and common disorder often called a heart murmur that could be hereditary.

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