Fenfluramine (Pondimin), an anti-obesity medication, was introduced on the U.S. market in 1973. It is a combination of dexfenfluramine and levofenfluramine designed to elicit a feeling of fullness by increasing the level of the mood and appetite regulating neurotransmitter serotonin. It was then found that by combining fenfluramine with the appetite suppressing stimulant phentermine (Redux), astounding weight loss could be achieved with apparently fewer side effects.
Obesity has become a national epidemic, so the seemingly magic pill launched a "fen-phen craze" in the early to mid-1990s in which approximately six million Americans, mostly women, not all of them obese, took the drug. But in 1997, after physicians became concerned that fen-phen could affect heart valves, the maker of fenfluramine (Pondimin), American Home Products Corp. (now Wyeth), withdrew the drug from the market. Dexfenfluramine, made by Interneuron Pharmaceuticals and marketed by Wyeth-Ayerst Laboratories was also cited in the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) alert that prompted its withdrawal.
The initial concerns that fen-phen did not live up to its miracle drug status ensued when up to 30 percent of echocardiograms of women who had taken the drug showed heart valve abnormalities, despite presenting no other symptoms. Further testing has since then revealed serious risks resulting from the use of fen-phen, including:
- Heart murmurs
- Heart valve thickening
- Heart valve regurgitation
- Heart valve leaks
- Primary pulmonary hypertension (PPH)
Tens and even hundreds of thousands of lawsuits have since been filed by victims of fen-phen. Wyeth was found responsible for damages the drug caused to its users in a case in which two Philadelphia plaintiffs received $100 million each in a settlement. In 1999, American Home Products Corporation agreed to pay $3.75 billion in a class action settlement. As lawsuits have continued to be filed, however, some have estimated the total potential liability to be closer to $11 billion.
Most trial attorneys are no longer accepting fen-phen claims. However, if you or a loved one is suffering from cardiac or other problems you may be entitled to compensation depending on the cause of the problems. Upon review of your case, a qualified pharmaceutical injury attorney will be able to advise you as to what options are available to you.
If you or a loved one take or have taken Fen-Phen (Pondimin/Redux) and developed valvular heart disease or other serious side effects, should contact a pharmaceutical injury attorney today as you may be entitled to compensation.