People across the country and even right here in Tennessee have turned to the drug Fen-phen in hopes of losing weight. However, many Fen-phen users found a number of side effects as a result of the drug. Some of those side effects may have developed over a number of years even after no longer using the drug. One of the long term serious side effects being linked to the drug is Primary Pulmonary Hypertension (PPH). This serious and even fatal lung disorder causes progressive lung and heart damage and can even lead to heart failure. Two former Fen-phen users filed suit against the drug company claiming that they had developed PPH nearly ten years after having stopped use of the drug.
Recently, Judge Harvey Bartle, III, the judge overseeing the Fen-phen cases in all federal courts across the county ruled that the plaintiffs in those two cases who have developed PPH allegedly as a result of using the drug may continue with their lawsuit against the now parent company of the drug, Pfizer. Wyeth, the original manufacturer of the drug, was bought out by Pfizer in 2009. The drug company had argued that new PPH cases should be thrown out because the disease had developed years and sometimes even over a decade following the last use of the drug. The court ordered that Fen-phen users could use expert testimony that relied on scientific studies showing that the drugs can cause PPH even years later.
This ruling will be welcome news to anyone who may have taken the drug and later developed PPH. Nearly 6 million prescriptions for the drug Fen-phen were written before it was withdrawn. This large number of users obviously shows the magnitude of any side effects and the pending litigation. Although this ruling does not open up further litigation to all former Fen-phen users, it does give users who may have developed PPH an opportunity to recover for the harm caused by the drug.
PPH claims against the drug company have been relatively few in numbers but have generated tens of millions of dollars from verdicts and settlements. In 2004 a Texas jury ordered the company to pay more than $1 billion to the family of a former Fen-phen user who had died from PPH. The jury awarded the family $113 million in compensatory damages and $900 million in punitive damages over the company’s mishandling of the drug.
It will be interesting to see how the current PPH cases end up moving forward. It will be up to the jury for a final determination of the issue in these cases. A jury could find that the company is responsible for the damages caused by the drug and award the plaintiffs accordingly. Alternatively, the jury could also find that the drug did not end up causing the disease.
If you have developed PPH even years following Fen-phen consumption, we encourage you to give our Tennessee Fen-phen attorneys a call. We would be happy to answer any questions that you may have related to your potential Fen-phen claim.