September 5, 2012 — Experts are warning that the late effects of Fen Phen may not appear for 10 or 20 years after a person stopped using the pills. Recently, a federal judge decided to allow Fen Phen lawsuits for late side effects to proceed.
Two lawsuits involving late effects of Fen Pen are currently moving forward. One was filed by the family of Jamie Cheek, who was diagnosed with PPH nine years after using Fen Phen. The other lawsuit was filed on behalf of Valerie Farmer, who was diagnosed with PPH 11 years after she used Fen Phen. Attorneys for Wyeth Pharmaceuticals wanted these cases thrown out, but a federal judge disagreed, saying that there is evidence supporting the claim that Fen Phen can cause latent side effects.
Studies have shown that it can take many years — even decades — for patients to develop PPH. This is because PPH is a progressive disease, in which narrow blood vessels in the lungs causes gradually worse damage to the heart muscle and valves.
Some of the highest settlements have been paid to people who developed PPH many years after using Fen Phen. A state-court jury in Beaumont, Texas awarded the family of Cynthia Cappel-Coffey more than $1 billion in damages ($113 million in compensatory damages, and $900 million in punitive damages). She used Pondmin in 1997, was diagnosed with PPH in 2002, and died the following year.
Fen Phen (fenfluramine / phentermine) is a diet pill that was invented by Wyeth Pharmaceuticals in the early 1990s. At the peak of its popularity, millions of prescriptions were written for this medication. Unfortunately, doctors began noticing that people who were taking the drug had severe damage to their lung tissue and heart valves. In 1997, Fen Phen was recalled from the market. Wyeth faced thousands of Fen Phen lawsuits, and the company set aside $21 billion to settle the cases. Wyeth was bought out by Pfizer in 2009.