Doctor: Plaintiffs in fen-phen suit not sick

Published 12:00 am Thursday, December 9, 1999

FAYETTE — According to cardiologist Marcus Stoddard, the five plaintiffs suing a drug maker because they say the company’s diet drugs damaged their hearts and lungs aren’t even sick.

Stoddard testified for the defense Thursday in a Jefferson County civil trial against No. 5 drug maker American Home Products, which marketed the diet drugs Pondimin and Redux.

Stoddard said he disagreed with Wednesday’s testimony by Jackson cardiologist Malcolm Taylor that the plaintiffs suffer from either the lung disease pulmonary hypertension or from leaky heart valves as a result of taking AHP’s diet drugs.

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Four of the plaintiffs say they suffer from pulmonary hypertension, a potentially fatal lung disease.

Stoddard, who has not personally examined any of the plaintiffs, said they do not suffer from the disease. He also testified that there are other known causes of the disease, including high blood pressure and obesity.

&uot;Can you determine that just because they took a diet drug that’s the cause of pulmonary hypertension?&uot; defense attorney Robert L. Johnson asked Stoddard, who replied, &uot;No.&uot;

&uot;To just assume that diet drugs are a cause without looking at secondary causes just doesn’t make sense to me,&uot; Stoddard said.

In the trial, plaintiffs attorneys have argued that American Home knew its diet drugs were associated with heart and lung problems but kept the information from the Food and Drug Administration. They have said the company knew about more cases of pulmonary hypertension and valvular heart disease than it put on the warning labels for the drugs.

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.

After the plaintiffs rested their case Wednesday, Judge Lamar Pickard dismissed Smith Klein Beacham, maker of a phentermine called Fastin, from the case. Pickard did not dismiss Bankston Drugs, a Fayette drugstore which plaintiff Kenya Tenner Gaines says filled her prescription for diet drugs.

Along with Gaines, other plaintiffs are Claude Pickett of Natchez, Brenda Hamm of Bay Springs, Vinester Williams of Itta Bena and Ruth Bishop of Greenville.