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Fen-phen Medical Malpractice Cases – One Of The Biggest Series Of Malpractice Cases Ever

One of the largest series of legal medical malpractice cases involves the drug Fen-phen, which is a weight loss drug produced by American Home Products. American Home Products is now merged with Wyeth Corporation. Weight loss pills make lots of money for pharmaceutical companies, so Wyeth Corporation was excited about Fen-phen's potential earning possibilities. Fen-phen was supposed to be the miracle cure for obesity, and a wonder drug for weight loss.

Fen-phen is a combination of drugs that patients took as a treatment for obesity and to help them lose weight. The drugs were Fenfluramine and Phentermine. Soon after Fen-phen was released for use, reports came in of patients suffering heart attacks and strokes after taking the drug. It was withdrawn from the market in 1997. Researchers at the Mayo clinic found that a much higher than expected number of people who took the drug had disease of the heart valves. About 30 percent of those using Fen-phen had abnormal electrocardiograms. Electrocardiograms detect problems in heart valve function. An electrocardiogram is an ultrasound of the heart's function. The cause of this heart valve problem was linked to using Fen-phen. Use of Fen-phen caused heart valve problems and was potentially fatal.

Diet drug related primary pulmonary hypertension is diagnosed through a process of elimination. Causes of primary pulmonary hypertension are sleep apnoea, emphysema, auto immune disorders, failure of the left side of the heart, pulmonary emboli, and congenital heart diseases, among other causes. Unfortunately, diet drug related primary pulmonary hypertension is also possible. All other causes of primary pulmonary hypertension must be eliminated to prove that the diet drug Fen-phen is the source of the problem. An electrocardiogram is done on the heart to determine if the heart valves are functioning properly. More extensive, invasive tests may also need to be done to confirm diet drug related primary pulmonary hypertension in a former Fen-phen user.

Former Fen-phen users have filed 175,000 claims against Wyeth. These claims state that the former Fen-phen users developed primary pulmonary hypertension because of Fen-phen use. American Home Products knew about a possible link between Fen-phen use and primary pulmonary hypertension. They did not, however, mention anything about this problem on the product's adverse effects labelling. The FDA believed that American Home Products knew there was a possible problem with Fen-phen and covered it up.

According to the April 2005 edition of American Lawyer magazine, over 50,000 people who have taken the drug have filed medical malpractice suits and over $14 billion have been paid out. There are other allegations that doctors were getting high commission per patient to submit medical reports that their clients had the heart valve damage. Lawyers were literally bribing doctors to produce positive reports for heart disease. Heart disease had run 5% in a blind study of Fen-phen users, but ran up to 60% in clients of certain law firms. There were negotiations as of January 2005 to settle the class action suit and settle the remaining claims out of court. Wyeth had been trying since 1998 to find a formula leading to a maximum pay out in medical malpractice cases.

Over eighteen million prescriptions were written for Fen-phen, so there was a fear that the amount of medical malpractice pay out could be astronomical. Unlike asbestos cases, where symptoms took decades to show up, the Fen-phen cases were thought to have short latency periods. Some tests even showed heart valve problems after only 3 months of Fen-phen use. Even if the people did not get sick immediately, they would show results for damage heart valves soon after starting Fen-phen use. On the other hand, some cases of diet drug primary pulmonary hypertension did not appear until 10 years after the diet pill was taken. Wyeth attempted to have a class action suit solution. A huge advertising campaign drew in all types of people claiming heart damage. Some of these people who never took Fen-phen tried to file a claim. These claims are looked at as regrettable, but an inevitable part of an attempt to settle a case with tens of thousands of people. Wyeth has designated 21 billion dollars for Fen-phen's lawsuits.

Early detection can improve quality and length of life for the primary pulmonary hypertension patient. Undiagnosed and untreated, this condition can be quickly debilitating and possibly lead to death. Contact your lawyer for advice and information on filing a class action lawsuit if you have been diagnosed with primary pulmonary hypertension due to Fen-phen use.