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September 7, 2001-Propulsid Litigation Underway

September 7, 2001-Propulsid Litigation Underway

  Opening arguments were presented in the nation's first lawsuit against the heartburn drug Propulsid, a case that has 155 plaintiffs seeking $1.2 billion. The lead plaintiffs' attorney, said in Claiborne County Circuit Court on Thursday that Janssen and parent company Johnson & Johnson promoted the use of Propulsid by children, when the Federal Drug Administration had only approved its use for adults.

  Propulsid has been linked to the deaths of 80 people. Janssen took it off the shelves in 2000, but it is still in limited use. Lead defense attorney said more than 30 million prescriptions were written for Propulsid and that while no drug is perfect, blaming the heartburn drug for the plaintiffs' health problems was not cut and dry.

  During the trial, the plaintiff's attorney showed a chart to the jury showing that some of the plaintiffs had had congestive heart failure, cardiovascular disease and high blood pressure in the past. The plaintiff's attorneys continued by telling the jury that Janssen held back information about the drug from doctors because they did not keep the physician's desk reference, or PDR, up to date. A PDR is a book that medical doctors receive giving detailed information about prescription drugs.

   Janssen had asked the Mississippi Supreme Court to stop the proceedings so both sides could await a decision to move the trial from Fayette to Port Gibson. The drug companies had argued they could not get a fair trial in Fayette where 117 of the 155 plaintiffs lived.

  The Supreme Court on Thursday denied the request to stop the trial. Presiding Justice Chuck McRae said the court would rule later on whether to hold a hearing on the change of venue question. The case is being heard in a cramped, rural courthouse in an area of Mississippi known for big jury verdicts. Pickard has issued a gag order to attorneys not to discuss the case.

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