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Upjohn Sues Over Unfavorable News Stories

January 25, 1992

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (AP) _ The Upjohn Co. on Friday filed three lawsuits in England claiming recent stories about the dangers of the popular sleeping aid Halcion were libelous.

The lawsuits filed in the High Court of Justice claim that Upjohn’s reputation was damaged by allegations made by Scottish professor Ian Oswald and reported by the British Broadcasting Corp. and the Sunday Express tabloid.

The lawsuits seek injunctions and unspecified damages.

″We are taking this very seriously. We are not going to allow allegations that attack Upjohn’s integrity to be broadcast or published go unchallenged,″ said spokeswoman Kaye Bennett.

Britain banned Halcion in October.

One lawsuit names the BBC and reporter Tom Mangold as defendants following the Oct. 14 broadcast of television show called ″The Halcion Nightmare.″ The suit against Oswald follows allegations he made in a story published Monday in The New York Times. The newspaper was not named as a defendant.

The third lawsuit stems from the Sunday Express’ Oct. 6 article by reporter Neville Hodgkinson. Hodgkinson, editor Eve Pollard and Express Newspapers PLC all are named as defendants.

Pollard confirmed the newspaper had received a copy of the lawsuit from Upjohn.

″The Sunday Express has had no previous complaint. Until our investigations are complete we can make no further comment,″ Pollard said.

BBC Television spokeswoman Colette Neill said the network had not received notice of the lawsuit, but ″as a general rule we stand by our programs.″

Oswald could didn’t immediately return messages left at his home Friday evening.

Considered the world’s best-selling sleeping aid, Halcion accounts for 8 percent of the Kalamazoo-based pharmaceutical company’s sales, which were $2.5 billion for the first nine months of 1991.

Halcion has been linked in some studies to hallucinations and short-term memory loss in some patients. Earlier this week, a stockholder filed a lawsuit against Upjohn for allegedly boosting its stock prices by hiding safety information from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Upjohn denied the claims.

The FDA now is reviewing the safety of the drug, as are authorities in Germany and France.

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