Lawyers: E-mail shows attitude toward health risks

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 8, 1999

FAYETTE — Plaintiffs attorneys used an internal company e-mail referring to &uot;some silly lung problem&uot; Wednesday to characterize what they say was American Home Products’ attitude toward health problems associated with its diet drugs.

Five Mississippi plaintiffs are suing AHP because they say the company’s Pondimin and Redux diet drugs caused damage to their hearts and lungs.

&uot;Am I off the hook or can I look forward to my waning years signing checks to fat people who are a little afraid of some silly lung problem?&uot; the e-mail states. It was sent to Patty Acri, senior director of product information and marketing for AHP.

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&uot;Did they put that on the warning label?&uot; plaintiffs attorney Dennis Sweet asked Brenda Hamm, a Bay Springs resident who says she suffers from pulmonary hypertension as a result of taking Redux and Pondimin.

Defense attorneys, who objected to the use of the e-mail as evidence, have said it was sent by a low-level employee who wasn’t speaking for the company.

At issue throughout the trial has been whether American Home knew about health problems allegedly associated with its diet drugs. Plaintiffs attorneys say the company knew about more cases of pulmonary hypertension and valvular heart disease than it put on its warning labels.

Defense attorneys say Hamm and the other plaintiffs in the case are not sick, and that they were warned about the risks associated with taking the drugs.

On the stand, Hamm and fellow plaintiffs Ruth Bishop and Vinester Williams said they had been diagnosed with health problems associated with the diet drugs by a Jackson cardiologist who also testified for the plaintiffs Wednesday.

All said they had not been warned about side effects, although defense attorneys showed doctors’ records stating that the physicians who prescribed the drugs did warn them about the problems.

Hamm said she was &uot;very angry&uot; that she used the drugs although the company allegedly knew more about health problems than it claimed.

&uot;I may not be able to see my grandchild grow up, and I’ve got another one on the way,&uot; she said, wiping tears from her eyes.

Redux, a dexfenfluramine, and Pondimin, a fenfluramine, were part of a drug cocktail prescribed for weight loss. Coupled with phentermines, which AHP does not make or market, the drug treatment was called fen-phen.

Redux and Pondimin were taken off the market in 1997.

Other plaintiffs include Claude Pickett of Natchez and Kenya Tenner of Fayette.