Sixteen Years On And Fen-Phen Is Not Forgotten

| February 11, 2013
FenPhen

In 2003, Forbes Magazine said in their article ‘Bad Medecine’ that Wyeth had already paid our $13 Billion to Fen-Phen users… but the battle is not over for many

It may have been pulled off the market 16 years ago, but for some, Fen-Phen is still a scourge.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA ) issued a recall of the drugs Fenfluramine and phentermine in 1997 after these diet drugs were linked with heart valve damage and Primary Pulmonary Hypertension (PPH) or Fen-Phen PPH.

At the time of their recall, the FDA reported that, although Fenfluramine and phentermine were approved in the 1950s as individual agents for short-term use in the medical management of obesity, the use of Fen-Phen products concomitantly (together or in combination) had never been approved.

However, the combination of the two products, known as Fen-Phen, was prescribed “off label” by many health care practitioners as an appetite suppressant. In the US alone, between 6 million and 7 million people took Fen-Phen and in 1996, 18 million prescriptions were written for the two drugs combined.

Within weeks after the Mayo Clinic published a paper on the damaging effects of Fen-Phen in July 1997, legal claims against the drugs manufacturer, Wyeth, started rolling in. The Mayo Clinic report showed heart valve damage in one third of Fen-Phen users who participated in the study. At the peak of the Fen-Phen scandal, Wyeth faced more than 175,000 claims from users who accused them from hiding the drugs’ health risks to generate billions in profits.

In 2002, Wyeth agreed on a nationwide settlement of $3.75 billion.

Sadly, though thousands of Fen-Phen users had their day in court, many of them are still battling with serious health complications 16 years after the drugs were removed from the market.

In November 2008, a study published online in BMC Medicine showed that heart valve problems linked to Fen-Phen can typically last years after stopping the drugs. The study examined the effects of Fen-Phen on the hearts of 5,743 former users. The patients’ hearts were examined between July 1997 and February 2004 – shortly before the drugs were banned until 7 years after the recall.

When the study started, nearly 20 per cent of the women and almost 12 per cent of the men had at least mild regurgitation through the aortic valve or moderate regurgitation through the mitral valve… in other words, their heart valves were leaking.

Follow-up tests showed that aortic and mitral regurgitation stayed the same or in some cases the valve problems worsened. Dr. William O’Neill, a cardiologist and a professor of medicine at the University of Miami’s Miller School of Medicine, said that “It’s pretty clear cut that the rare side effect of the fen-phen administration was inflammation and then fibrosis of the valves.”

However, the most common side effect of FenPhen is Primary Pulmonary Hypertension (PPH) – an increase of blood pressure in the pulmonary artery, pulmonary vein, or pulmonary capillaries, together known as the lung vasculature, leading to shortness of breath, dizziness, fainting and leg swelling.

In April 2004, a US court in Beaumont, Texas, ordered Wyeth to pay more than $1 billion to the family of a former Fen-Phen user who died from PPH. A panel awarded Cynthia Cappel-Coffey’s family $113 million in compensation and $900 million in punitive damages over the company’s mishandling of the drugs. Testimony showed that Cappel-Coffey, an X-ray technician, took Pondimin (a combination drug of Fen-Phen) for five months in 1997 and was diagnosed with PPH in February 2002. She died the following year, age 41.

There are countless cases like these… and many are still surfacing, because the effects of these drugs are still very much a reality for those who used them.

In September 2012, drug giant Pfizer (who acquired Wyeth in 2009) lost a bid to have future claims regarding Fen-phen dismissed. These claims say that Fen-phen caused PPH  more than 10 years after the drug was last used… Like Jamie Cheek whose PPH symptoms only appeared  nine years after she last used Fen-Phen.


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Sources:

Sixteen Years On, It’s Fen-Phen All Over Again, published online 11.04.13, lawyersandsettlements.com

Fen-Phen Heart Valve Damage Lawsuit, published online, lawyersandsettlements.com

Lasting Damage From Fen-Phen Drug? published oline 05.11.08, webmd.com

Pfizer Asks End to Fen-Phen Suits Linked to Lung Ailment, published online, 23.08.12, bloomberg.com

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Category: Killer Drugs Banned

Comments (5)

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  1. Aundine says:

    Watching your video made me feel strange… If things are so bad now, how much worse will it be for our children?

    Signed and shared… hope it gets the word out.

  2. Tom says:

    I can only shake my head. I am in good health and reading your site, I hope I stay healthy. I don’t want any of their poison… it certainly will slowly destroy (if not kill) you.

  3. Edna McCoy says:

    You should write something about the diet pill Alli… Signed the petition!

  4. Mikey says:

    Thanks for telling us about this. Signed and shared. Best of success to you guys.

  5. Sarah says:

    I love your website. Signed the petition. Hope it makes a difference.