August 17, 2001- Bayer facing mounting US lawsuits over anti-cholesterol drug
German drug giant Bayer is facing mounting lawsuits in the United States, after the company withdrew its anti-cholesterol drug Baycol, which has been linked with the deaths of more than 50 people.
An attorney representing a number of plaintiffs said Friday that all of about 700,000 Americans who took an anti-cholesterol drug from German chemicals group Bayer could seek damages from the company. "There will be many, many lawsuits," the attorney said, adding that the drug scandal could become one of the largest litigation efforts "in pharmaceutical history". The attorney is also working with a German lawyer on the suit. The German lawyer said Friday he was confident that German patients would also be able to seek compensation in US courts, where plaintiffs can sue for far higher compensation than at home.
Bayer withdrew Baycol - its number three selling drug - from sale last week, admitting Monday that the drug had been linked to the deaths of 52 patients. The drug contains cerivastatin sodium, used to lower plasma cholesterol levels. About six million people worldwide took the anti-cholesterol medication before its worldwide withdrawal from the market, with the exception of Japan.
In the United States, lawsuits have also been filed in California, Oklahoma, as well as in Pennsylvania and Illinois. The action, for the time being, is in its preliminary stages, with a decision as to whether the case can be assessed as a class action to be made by the courts.
The Oklahoma suit, on behalf of a local resident whose 87-year-old father died in January after three weeks of taking Baycol, seeks a minimum of 75,000 dollars' damages. An investigation is continuing to confirm the figure, according to the plaintiff's attorney.
Another class action lawsuit was filed on behalf of plaintiffs in US District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania. Bayer stocks, meanwhile, have plummeted more than 20 percent in value. Previous lawsuits against US drug companies include one against American Home Products, which had to pay 11 billion dollars damages for victims of its slimming treatments Pondimin, or fenfluramine, and Redux, dexfenfluramin, which caused heart valve damage. That group withdrew the products from the market in 1997 after some six million Americans used them, reaching an out-of-court settlement, with the case definitively closed last year. The US Food and Drug Administration said it had received reports of 31 deaths in the United States due to severe rhabdomyolysis, muscular weakness, associated with use of Baycol. Twelve of the cases involved the combined use of gemfibrozil -- another lipid-reducing drug.
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