Mounting research and numerous case studies have linked the notorious diet drug Fen Phen to a severe lung disease known as primary pulmonary hypertension (PPH). Signs and symptoms of Fen Phen-induced PPH include shortness of breath, chest pain, dizziness, and coughing up blood. Primary pulmonary hypertension and other serious medical conditions have been directly associated with Fen Phen use, and have led to thousands of lawsuits around the country to compensate victims for their injuries.
Fen Phen Lawsuit Update 9/5/12: A federal judge has shot down an attempt by Pfizer to throw out new Fen Phen lawsuits, which continue to be filed on behalf of individuals who allegedly developed pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH) after taking the drug. In most defective drug cases, state-based statutes of limitations limit the amount of time lawsuits can be brought against manufacturers of dangerous medications. However, under a latency argument which states that symptoms of PAH may not appear for years or even decades after the user takes Fen Phen, some plaintiffs have been allowed to argue that they did not discover they were injured until just recently.
What is Primary Pulmonary Hypertension (PPH)?
PPH is a rare lung disorder in which the blood pressure in the pulmonary artery rises far above normal levels for no apparent reason. The pulmonary artery is responsible for carrying oxygen-poor (blue) blood from the right ventricle to the lungs. Once it has reached the lungs, the blood is oxygenated and sent to the right side of the heart, and then out to the rest of the body via the aorta.
When the lung’s blood vessels become narrowed, they are unable to carry an adequate supply of blood and pressure builds up. If left untreated, this condition leads to primary pulmonary hypertension. The heart is forced to strain itself to move blood through the vessels against the increased pressure. Over time, PPH causes the right side of the heart to become enlarged and eventually fail because not enough blood is allowed to flow to the lungs to be oxygenated.
Symptoms of Primary Pulmonary Hypertension
Signs and symptoms of Fen Phen-induced primary pulmonary hypertension may include:
- difficulty breathing
- shortness of breath
- color change in hands
- swelling of the hands and feet
- an increase in the pulmonic second heart sound
- enlargement of the main pulmonary artery
Because many of these symptoms are commonly found in obese patients, PPH is often overlooked and goes undetected until the condition is in its later stages. Telltale signs and symptoms may take 10 years or more to be diagnosed in certain patients, long after the individual has stopped taking Fen Phen. If you are a former Fen Phen user and are suffering from any of the symptoms listed above, you should contact your doctor immediately.
How Common is PPH?
Persistent pulmonary hypertension is a relatively rare lung disease, with approximately 500 to 1,000 new cases being diagnosed each year in the United States. The vast majority of cases have been reported in women between the ages of 20 and 40, but it is important to understand that anyone at any age can develop the disease. In the year 2000 alone, there were nearly 165,000 hospital discharges in which PPH was one of the diagnoses.
Fen Phen PPH Legal Claims
Although Fen Phen products were recalled by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) in 1997, former users are still being newly-diagnosed with persistent pulmonary hypertension and other adverse medical conditions caused by the drug. Future legal claims for Fen Phen injuries are now barred unless the patient has properly registered with the American Home Products (AHP) Settlement Trust. AHP was the name of the company who originally manufactured Fen Phen, Redux and Pondimin. The company has since changed its name to Wyeth Pharmaceuticals.
Please note: legal claims by former Fen Phen users diagnosed with PPH are not barred by the settlement agreement, as the disease can take up to a decade or more to be conclusively diagnosed. According to the conditions of the settlement agreement, these lawsuits are dictated by state statutes of limitations from the time of diagnosis of the disease. Even now, 15 years after Fen Phen was recalled, former users continue to contract cases of PPH which are likely to have been caused by the drug. At Schmidt & Clark, LLP, we are continuing to review cases and represent former Fen Phen users who have been diagnosed with primary pulmonary hypertension and other serious medical conditions.