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Report: Fen-phen Maker Settles Suit

July 22, 1999

DALLAS (AP) _ American Home Products Corp. has reportedly paid more than $3 million to settle a lawsuit by a 70-year-old woman that linked her rare lung disease to the diet-drug combination fen-phen.

The agreement in Ruth Burks’ case, reported Thursday by the Dallas Morning News, is at least the 12th settlement by the pharmaceutical giant involving former users of fen-phen. The drug maker, based in Madison, N.J., faces more than 3,100 lawsuits nationwide related to health problems allegedly caused by its drugs.

An American Home Products spokesman could not immediately be reached by The Associated Press Thursday for comment. Mrs. Burks’ lawyer, C.L. Mike Schmidt of Dallas, confirmed the settlement’s existence to the Morning News but refused to discuss specifics.

American Home Products marketed fenfluramine and its chemical cousin dexfenfluramine until September 1997, when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration pushed for the drugs’ withdrawal. Phentermine, the other drug used in the fen-phen combination, was not pulled from the market.

The newspaper reported the settlement was more than $3 million, citing sources it did not identify.

The Burks settlement comes less than a month after American Home Products agreed to pay between $6 million and $7 million to settle a Harris County lawsuit linking a woman’s death to fen-phen. The trial was the nation’s first involving a patient who died after taking the product.

Mrs. Burks took fen-phen from April 1996 to July 1997. Doctors diagnosed her with primary pulmonary hypertension, a potentially fatal lung disease, in April 1998.

Mrs. Burks now lives in an assisted-living center in Tyler and receives medication intravenously through a chest catheter.

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