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Halcion Critic Says Upjohn Trying to Silence Him

January 21, 1992

DETROIT (AP) _ A British psychiatrist says the maker of Halcion is trying to silence his criticism of the world’s best-selling sleeping pill by suing him.

The Upjohn Co. said Monday it planned to sue Dr. Ian Oswald, a Scottish psychiatrist, for what it called ″false and reckless charges″ he made against the company and the drug.

Oswald, who has studied Halcion and other sleeping aids, said by telephone from Edinburgh, Scotland, he plans to testify next month at a German government safety hearing on Halcion. And he said he may counter-sue Upjohn.

Upjohn was responding to a report in Monday’s New York Times that quoted Oswald as saying that Upjohn has for years failed to report all the side effects it observed with Halcion or has concealed adverse findings.

″I am quite confident the truth will prevail,″ Oswald said in the phone interview. ″It is my intention to continue to tell the truth and not to be cowed. I suppose there’s always the possibility of a counter-suit.″

But Upjohn Chairman Dr. Theodore Cooper said Oswald has made the charge many times, falsely shaking the public’s confidence in Halcion. He said the company will sue ″as soon as possible.″

″These repeated false and reckless charges of fraudulent concealment by Dr. Oswald cannot be condoned,″ Cooper said.

″We’ve been caring for patients now for more than a century, and it’s not fair for our employees to continue to be smeared by Oswald or for patients to be frightened and misled by this kind of junk science.″

The price of the Kalamazoo-based company’s stock fell Monday. On the New York Stock Exchange, shares closed down $1.62 1/2 , at $41.50.

Upjohn also acknowledged Monday that the Food and Drug Administration has for months been reviewing safety studies on Halcion.

The company said it has fully cooperated with the probe and will continue doing so. Halcion represents about 8 percent of Upjohn’s sales, which were $2.5 billion in the first nine months of 1991.

Investment analysts said Upjohn has reason to fear the negative publicity.

″People are going to be a lot more cautious about the drug, and doctors are going to be more reluctant to prescribe it,″ said analyst Barbara Ryan of Prudential Bache Securities in New York.

The drug has been under attack in Europe and the United States based on allegations that it causes side-effects such as memory loss and depression in many users. Britain has banned sales of Halcion, while France and Spain have limited sales to low dosages.

Upjohn says the drug’s side effects are rare, and its benefits far outweigh the dangers.

The company has been aware for several months the FDA was reviewing safety studies on Halcion, said spokeswoman Kaye Bennett. ″We have been cooperating with the federal government for months now,″ she said. The New York Times said the FDA had obtained copies of sealed court records from a 1991 Utah civil lawsuit in which a woman claimed the drug caused her to kill her mother.

Bennett said she couldn’t confirm the report but said Upjohn has provided all its research data on Halcion to the FDA and to other safety agencies around the world.

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