Executive: We didn’t make ‘dirty drugs’

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 14, 1999

FAYETTE – A former Wyeth-Ayerst executive disputed a plaintiff’s attorney’s characterization that the company made &uot;dirty drugs.&uot;

Wyeth-Ayerst is the pharmaceutical division of American Home Products, the nation’s No. 5 drug company which is being sued by five Mississippi plaintiffs who claim the company’s diet drugs caused damage to their hearts and lungs.

In court Tuesday, plaintiff’s attorney Dennis Sweet showed former Wyeth-Ayerst medical affairs director Dr. Marc Deitch a letter sent to another company executive. The letter quoted a company spokesman as saying that Redux was considered a &uot;dirty drug.&uot;

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&uot;We don’t make dirty drugs. That may be one person’s flip, off-handed comment, but that’s certainly not what we believe,&uot; Deitch said.

Redux and Pondimin, along with phentermines, which American Home does not make, were part of a diet drug combination called fen-phen. Redux and Pondimin were taken off the market in 1997 after some patients who had taken them complained of valvular heart disease and pulmonary hypertension, a rare lung disease.

Plaintiffs in the case, including Claude Pickett of Natchez and Kenya Tenner Gaines of Fayette, have said they suffer from those diseases after taking either Redux or Pondimin.

Their lawyers have argued the company knew the drugs were associated with the diseases but did not warn patients or doctors thoroughly.

But defense attorneys maintain none of the plaintiffs is sick.

Also testifying Tuesday was epidemiologist Walter Stewart, who testified that the plaintiff’s short-term use of the drugs did not increase their risk of valvular heart disease or pulmonary hypertension. He testified they have the same likelihood of developing the diseases as anyone else who did not use the drugs.

Mississippi state law prevents a doctor from prescribing a diet medication longer than 30 days at a time, and no more than four times in a 12-month period.

Stewart also testified that of the plaintiffs have the diseases, there is no evidence that the diseases will get worse.