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What is Fen Phen?

In the mid-1990s, a high number of overweight Americans were taking fen phen with the promise of quick and effective weight loss. Fen phen contained the combination of two drugs called fenfluramine and phentermine. While one drug suppressed the appetite, the other drug prevented drowsiness. Patients quickly experienced dramatic weight loss and the drug was dubbed a “miracle pill".

Although health experts warned from the start that fen phen should only be used by the seriously obese, everyone wanted to get their hands on the weight loss drug. Seemingly overnight, new weight loss clinics began popping up prescribing fen phen to eager consumers.

The popularity of fen phen was short lived, and scientific evidence surfaced showing a link between serious heart valve damage and a fatal lung condition called primary pulmonary hypertension (PPH). By then, millions of Americans had used fen phen.

On September 15, 1997, the FDA said it asked Wyeth-Ayerst Laboratories to remove fen phen from the market due to the potentially deadly effects. Soon after, fen phen users began filing lawsuits. A 1999 class action lawsuit ensued.

Since then, total charges for fen phen has cost Wyeth $21 billion. In October 2004, Wyeth warned it might need to set aside additional reserves to cover more fen phen liability, including tens of thousands of former patients who have filed lawsuits alleging they were harmed by the products and were not adequately warned of the risks.

The drugmaker lost $1.76 billion in the fourth quarter of 2004. Wyeth has proposed settlement involving about 60,000 people who opted not to participate or were not eligible to participate in a 1999 class action settlement that covered most people who took Redux and Pondimin, half of the diet drug combination fen phen. A settlement would resolve the opt-out fen phen cases from going to trial, but internal FDA documents regarding the questionability of fen phen’s safety have been clearly outlined.

The documents include former FDA reviewer Leo Lutwak’s email to a colleague sent about a year prior to the fen phen recall stating that the drugs’ marginal benefits “should be brought out." Lutwak wrote on September 24, 1996, “If this hurts the sales, so be it. The company has gotten away with much manipulation these past 3 years, of the public, of the press, of the FDA." He continued to describe his frustration in an email describing the difficulties he had with fen phen and the FDA saying, “I started getting upset about this drug in ’93 or ’94 and was running into a lot of blocks from the FDA and from the drug company."

Wyeth is seeking to achieve settlement of all new fen phen charges for less than $2 billion, but that is below what JP Morgan and the Street expects for incremental costs required to resolve litigation in the range of $4 to $6 billion.

Contact Us if you have sustained any deadly health complications such as primary pulmonary hypertension to collect your claims.

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