Wyeth to appeal $1 billion awarded to the family of a woman who died after using fen-phen diet drug

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Wyeth said today it will appeal today's verdict in the case of Jerry Coffey (representing the estate of Cynthia Cappel-Coffey), et al. v. Wyeth, et al.

A Texas jury awarded $1 billion to the family of a woman who died after using one of the drugs in the fen-phen diet drug regimen, Wyeth, maker of the drug, said on Tuesday.

The trial began on March 15th before Judge Donald Floyd in District Court of Jefferson County, Texas, 172nd Judicial District. The plaintiffs alleged that Ms. Cappel-Coffey died as a result of Primary Pulmonary Hypertension (PPH) caused by her use of the diet drug Pondimin. According to Bill Sims, an attorney representing Wyeth in the case, the evidence shows that at the time she took the drug, Wyeth had acted responsibly and had provided adequate PPH warnings in compliance with FDA regulations.

It is important to note that PPH cases are distinctly different from heart valve cases and represent only a fraction of one-percent of diet drug litigation. "There is absolutely no basis in the record for the amounts awarded. While we sympathize with the Coffey family's loss, the verdict was contrary to the evidence presented and the judgment far exceeds Texas' own statutory cap on punitive damages," says Bill Sims. "We strongly disagree with and will contest the plaintiffs' efforts to lift the Texas cap on punitive damages in this case.

We believe we have a strong basis for reversal on appeal based on the significant number of legal errors made during trial and in the charge to the jury." "Ms. Cappel-Coffey, who was morbidly obese, a strong candidate for using diet drugs and had a family history of cardiovascular disease prior to taking diet drugs, did not develop PPH symptoms until more than four years after she stopped using Pondimin," Mr. Sims continued. "There are no studies that demonstrate an association between Pondimin use and an increased risk of PPH that long after cessation of use." "The court's decision to preclude all mention of the risks of other diet drugs in this case will be a significant issue on appeal," Sims added.

The jury was not permitted to hear a wide range of evidence that raised questions about the cause of Ms. Cappel-Coffey's PPH and her willingness to take drugs that carried risks of injury or death in order to treat her morbid obesity.

For example, the court inappropriately excluded evidence that she used four other prescription diet drugs after she took Pondimin. Some of these drugs also include warnings about the risk of PPH in their product labeling. Wyeth is one of the world's largest research-driven pharmaceutical and health care products companies.

It is a leader in the discovery, development, manufacturing, and marketing of pharmaceuticals, vaccines, biotechnology products and nonprescription medicines that improve the quality of life for people worldwide.

The Company's major divisions include Wyeth Pharmaceuticals, Wyeth Consumer Healthcare and Fort Dodge Animal Health.


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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