Court Finds Fen-Phen Claims ‘Medically Unreasonable’
A U.S. District Court in Philadelphia, Pa., last week ruled that many claims filed against Wyeth under a class-action diet drug settlement "have no reasonable medical basis" and should not be paid, a decision that could "curb the drug maker's liability" in the case, the Wall Street Journal reports (Hensley, Wall Street Journal, 11/18). Pondimin and Redux, the fenfluramine portion of the diet drug fen-phen, were taken off the market in 1997 after being linked to heart-valve damage and fatal lung disease. The trust that administers the settlement expected 5,000 people to file claims citing serious heart injuries and to pay claims of about $400,000 each. However, between February and August, 17,000 claims were filed, and that number is expected to increase to 35,000 by the end of the year. Settling the claims would cost Wyeth $14 billion. The company has set aside a total of $14.6 billion to pay claims (Philadelphia Inquirer, 10/4).
Judge Harvey Bartle said last week that the trust's ability to "pay legitimate claims is being undercut by tender of claims that have no reasonable medical basis" (Wall Street Journal, 11/18). Bartle found that all of a sampling of 78 claims filed by New York law firms Napoli, Kaiser, Bern & Associates and Hariton & D'Angelo were "medically unreasonable" and prohibited any payment on those claims. Bartle also ordered independent medical audits to consider the validity of "hundreds" of other claims brought by the firms, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. Marc Bern, an attorney with the Napoli firm, said that the judge "misconstrued the evidence" and added that the firm would "certainly" appeal the decision (Ditzen, Philadelphia Inquirer, 11/16). Bern added, "We expect the ruling to be completely overturned on appeal and the entire diet-drug settlement will fail" (Silverman, Newark Star-Ledger, 11/17).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.