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Judge Allows 5 New Fen Phen Lawsuits into MDL


October 3, 2012 — People who used Fen Phen in the 1990s and were recently diagnosed with Primary Pulmonary Hypertension (PPH), heart valve damage, lung damage, or other injuries may still be able to seek justice and compensation.

A judicial panel has decided to transfer five Fen Phen lawsuits into the federal Multidistrict Litigation (MDL), which was first established in 1997. The judicial panel decided to centralize the lawsuits to help expedite a resolution.

The Fen Phen MDL #1203 is located in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, where the Honorable Judge Harvey Bartle III presides. The transfer order is dated September 27, 2012.

Attorneys for Wyeth Pharmaceuticals and Pfizer Inc. argued against transferring the lawsuits into the MDL. They saw little benefit to centralizing five cases because the Fen Phen litigation had largely concluded. They advocated to keep the cases in the Northern District of California, where they are currently pending, and allow the litigation to resolve.

The judicial panel disagreed for several reasons, including because “The transferee judge has been extremely successful in resolving claims in a timely fashion, and transfer likely will aid in a speedier, not slower, resolution of plaintiff’s claims.” The panel also denied a similar argument from Pfizer and Wyeth back in February.

Fen Phen is a wildly popular diet pill that was invented in the 1990s by Wyeth Pharmaceuticals (now owned by Pfizer). It contained a novel combination of two drugs, fenfluramine and phentermine, combining an appetite-suppressant with a mild stimulant. The success of the drug was short-lived, however, because experts quickly discovered that Fen Phen could cause severe, life-threatening damage to heart valves and blood vessels in the lungs.

Primary Pulmonary Hypertension (PPH) is one of the most serious complications of Fen Phen. It occurs when damaged blood vessels increase pressure inside the lungs, forcing the heart to work very hard. Although the condition can be managed, it is chronic, and can progress to heart failure and death.

Because of the progressive nature of PPH, it is possible that some people who used Fen Phen in the 1990s are only recently being diagnosed with PPH. These people may still be able to file lawsuits and receive compensation for their injuries.

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