FEN-PHEN/REDUX: The Diet Drug That Did More Harm Than Good
What is fen-phen/Redux?
The drug combination fen-phen was in fact two separate pills prescribed by physicians for weight reduction. The "fen" stands for "fenfluramine," and the "phen" stands for "phentermine." The drug Redux (dexfenfluramine) was a similar weight reduction or diet pill, which was manufactured years after the other two drugs were placed on the market. Phentermine, known as "legalized speed," became popular in the early 1970's with movie stars in their attempt to lose weight.
Who made it?
Fenfluramine, which was sold under the trademark name Pondimin, was manufactured by A.H. Robins Company, a division of American Home Products. Phentermine was and continues to be manufactured by several different companies, and Redux was manufactured by Wyeth-Ayerst Laboratories. At the time that American Home Products was manufacturing and selling fenfluramine, it was one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the United States.
When did it go off the market?
The drug combination fen-phen and the single diet drug Redux was withdrawn from the United States market in September 1997, after a study was released by the famous Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, indicating a connection to the use of the drug and a serious heart condition known as valvular regurgitation, or leaky heart valves, was discovered.
Are any of the drugs still being utilized?
Although the use of the combination drug fen-phen and Redux is no longer allowed, the diet drug phentermine is still on the market, and is being widely prescribed to date. There is no direct evidence to indicate that the use of phentermine alone caused valvular regurgitation, and there seems to be no end to the amount of other diet drugs that are placed in the market daily, without the side effects associated with the deadly combination of fen-phen or the singular use of Redux.
Why was it taken off the market?
As indicated above, after a medical study was released by the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, in 1997, the United States Food and Drug Administration eventually informed American Home Products that there were serious problems associated with the use of fen-phen as far as weight loss was concerned. The FDA would have forced a recall had the manufacturer not "voluntarily" agreed to remove it from the market.
What harm did it do?
As indicated above, fen-phen/Redux caused serious valvular regurgitation, or leaky heart valves, which in some cases lead to death. In addition, a serious heart-lung disease known as primary pulmonary hypertension (PPH) was also caused by the use of the combination drug, as well as the singular use of Redux. PPH is a devastating heart and lung disease, ultimately requiring individuals to go on a prosectycycline pump imbedded in the body to deliver medications to keep blood vessels open so that blood can get to the heart and lungs. In the most serious of cases, individuals were required to be placed on a national heart-lung replacement list in the hopes that they would survive long enough to obtain a heart-lung transplant before death ensued.
What kind of litigation took place?
A lawsuit was filed in the Circuit Court of Brooke County, West Virginia, in 1997, asking that the Court certify a statewide class action on behalf of all individuals who purchased these drugs in West Virginia, for medical monitoring to monitoring the effects that these drugs caused, and a personal injury class, to recover damages on behalf of those individuals who suffered severe and permanent injuries as a result of the ingestion of this drug.
The Circuit Court of Brooke County certified a statewide class for medical monitoring, as well as a personal injury class. As a result of the certification of the medical monitoring class, all individuals in the state of West Virginia who desired a medical review to determine the extent of harm, if any, that the diet drugs caused, received the same at no cost to the individual. It was the first medical monitoring class in the entire country involving the diet drugs to be successfully pursued and completed. In fact, the nationwide class action involving fen-phen/Redux is still awaiting the completion of the medical monitoring program and the payment of all claims for personal injury.
All individuals who were monitored as a result of their purchase and ingestion of the drugs in the West Virginia litigation, and who had documented valvular heart disease and/or PPH, have settled their claims. The fen-phen class-action/mass tort litigation in West Virginia was the largest and most successful class action/mass tort for medical monitoring and personal injury in the history of the state of West Virginia.
What did Hill, Peterson, Carper, Bee & Deitzler, PLLC, do in the fen-phen/Redux diet drug litigation?
We were a group of five law firms that joined together for the common benefit of our diet drug clients. Each firm was responsible for its own clients. The purpose of the joint prosecution alliance was to share the work and expenses of those aspects of the litigation which were common to all diet drug cases. This in fact spread the tremendous cost of the litigation on the plaintiff's side over all of the cases, and by doing so, reduced expenses in each individual's case.
Our firm also participated with other attorneys from other states to jointly share in the litigation/discovery process, taking of depositions, and the prosecution of the individual state's claims to a successful conclusion.
Do I have a case?
All litigation in the state of West Virginia is now over. All individuals who purchased and/or ingested the diet drugs in the state of West Virginia who were involved in the West Virginia class action/mass tort have been medically monitored and have settled their personal injury claims. Those in West Virginia who chose to stay with the national MDL must pursue their claims in that pending litigation. Although the litigation is over in West Virginia, we are happy to answer any questions you may still have. Contact us or call us toll free at 1-800-797-9730.