6/29/2000 – $29M Awarded To 2 Fen-Phen Users

Jury Awards $29M To Fen-Phen Users

June 29, 2000 2:15 am EST

Manufacturer Of Weight Loss Drug Plans To Appeal

COQUILLE, OREGON (CBS News) – An Oregon jury has awarded $29.1 million in
damages to a 58-year-old bus driver and her son who said the diet drug
combination fen-phen damaged their hearts.

American Home Products Corp. said it plans to appeal Tuesday’s decision by a
Coos County jury, which said the drug, sold under the name Pondimin, caused
heart problems for Juanita Batson and Richard Wirt.

Fenfluramine, the “fen” in the drug combination, was withdrawn in September
1997 after a Mayo Clinic study linked it to potentially fatal heart valve
damage. The second drug in the combination, phentermine, was not linked to
any problems.

About 6 million people in the United States had been prescribed fen-phen by
the time the study was released.

American Home Products, based in Madison, N.J., faces more than 9,000
lawsuits involving Pondimin. The company also made Redux, a related drug.

Batson used the fen-phen diet drug for nine months to a year. Wirt, 40, who
works as a grocery store manager, took the drug for four months.

Their attorneys asked the jury to decide whether American Home Products knew
or should have know of the drug’s dangers and whether the two Bandon
residents were harmed financially from their injuries. The jury also was
asked to decide whether Dr. John Abbot was negligent in prescribing them the

Mark Spooner, a lawyer representing American Home Products, suggested the
plaintiffs’ health problems could be related to heredity or age.

Spooner called the trial a “lottery litigation wherein the plaintiffs were
absolutely healthy” until their attorneys “took them aside and told them they

The jury’s decision came as a federal judge in Philadelphia decides whether
to approve American Home’s $3.75 billion plan to settle the majority of U.S.
lawsuits filed by former fen-phen users.

About 1 percent of those have opted out of a national settlement deal that
could make $3.75 billion available to users of Pondimin and Redux, As of May,
the case had about 282,000 claimants.

In a separate case, Debbie Lovett of Grand Saline, Texas, was awarded $23.3
million nearly a year ago by a jury. The case was settled for less than 10
percent of that amount during an appeal.

SOURCE: The Associated Press.

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