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Diet Drug Trial Opens

March 31, 1999

CLEBURNE, Texas (AP) _ A company hid evidence that half of the popular diet-drug combination fen-phen caused serious heart problems, a lawyer for a woman suing American Home Products Corp. for $110 million said Wednesday.

The lawsuit is believed to be the first to reach a courtroom over the issue of heart valve damage caused by fen-phen or Redux, and experts said a victory for the woman could prove key to other cases.

A 12-member jury was seated to hear the case, filed by Sandra Moore against American Home Products Corp., the parent of pharmaceutical company Wyeth-Ayerst Laboratories.

``The sales and marketing people said if you put a black box warning on this product you are going to see sales of the product cut in half,″ Michael McGartland said during opening statements of the civil trial.

``They were making a lot of money,″ he said. ``It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out what the motivation was.″

Ms. Moore, a former Alvarado resident who now lives in Missoula, Mont., claims she wasn’t warned about the risks of taking fenfluramine, marketed by Wyeth-Ayerst as Pondimin, or dexfenfluramine, a similar drug sold by the company as Redux.

Fenflurmaine and Redux have been taken off the market. Fenfluramine makes up half of the ``fen-phen″ combination prescribed to thousands of patients to promote weight loss. The other half, phentermine, has not been linked to heart problems when taken alone and is still on the market.

Defense lawyer Bill Sims said he looks forward to putting the facts before the jury.

``There’s a lot of misinformation circulating about these drugs and why they were voluntarily withdrawn from the market,″ he said. ``We are going to tell it like it is.″

Doctors found mild heart valve damage after Ms. Moore, 52, took fen-phen for 10 months in 1996. She is now on medication for her condition.

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