April 25, 2001 -Stroke Victim Sues Drug Manufacturers

A 52-year-old Windsor man who suffered a stroke after taking over-the-counter diet and sinus medications in 1996 is suing the drugs' manufacturers and the stores where he bought them. The drugs David Edwards took in November and December 1996 were Dexatrim for dieting, and Robitussin and Tavist D for sinus congestion. Last November, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration pulled these and similar products off the market because they contain phenylpropanolamine, or PPA, which can cause hemorrhagic stroke. Edwards took the two sinus drugs simultaneously, and he had stopped taking the diet drug just days before he began the decongestants, the lawsuit says. He was using the products according to the instructions on the drugs' labels, the suit says.

The FDA action came after months of controversy over an industry-sponsored Yale University School of Medicine study that found an increased risk of hemorrhagic stroke among young women who use products containing PPA. More than 20 similar lawsuits have been filed nationwide against manufacturers and suppliers of PPA-containing drugs, but this is the first in Connecticut, according to the law firm handling the suit.

Edwards, who worked as a field engineer supervising about 100 people, suffered the stroke at home Dec. 5, 1996, while his wife was at work. She was called home by her children and drove him to the hospital. After a long stay at Mount Sinai Hospital, Edwards was transferred to a rehabilitation facility, his lawyers said. His symptoms reportedly included severe headaches, nausea, vomiting, lethargy, memory loss, loss of balance, confusion and a cerebral hemorrhage. Edwards' medical costs exceeded the health insurance coverage he had at the time, according to his lawyers. Edwards, who has not returned to work because of his health problems, declined comment.

The defendants in the lawsuit are the stores where Edwards and his wife purchased the drugs, Stop & Shop Inc. and Arthur Drug Stores Inc. Additional defendants are the manufacturers: Novartis Consumer Health Care Inc., doing business in New Jersey, and its Swiss parent firm, Novartis, AG, manufacturing Tavist D; Thompson Medical Co. Inc. of West Palm Beach, Fla., and Chattem Inc. of Chattanooga, Tenn., the makers of Dexatrim; and Whitehall-Robbins Inc., a division of American Home Products Inc., of Madison, N.J., which manufactures Robitussin. The Consumer Healthcare Products Association of Washington, D.C., a trade association promoting the "self-care industry," including these drug manufacturers, also was named in the suit.

A number of nonprescription-drug makers have reformulated products to eliminate PPA, and many more are expected to follow suit. Federal regulators said that although the threat of hemorrhagic stroke is low even with PPA use, the benefits of PPA aren't worth even a small risk. Hemorrhagic stroke is a condition in which a blood vessel bursts in the brain, killing brain tissue and leading to disability or death. Such strokes typically occur in the elderly and are extremely rare in people under 50.

If you or a loved one has suffered an injury as a result of taking any drug or supplement, call Law Offices of Robert Dourian now at 800-790-8856 or CLICK HERE TO SUBMIT A SIMPLE CASE FORM. The initial consultation is free of charge, and if we agree to review your case, we will work on a contingent fee basis, which means we get paid for our services only if there is a monetary award or recovery of funds. Don't delay! You may have a valid claim and be entitled to compensation for your injuries, but a lawsuit must be filed before the statute of limitations expires.

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