Amy was given Lupron Depot, a drug typically used to treat prostate cancer, to shrink fibroids on her uterus before she had a total hysterectomy. Lupron Depot works by suppressing the production of the hormone testosterone, and the two shots put her right into menopause. Amy says the drug also suppressed her short-term memory and caused her mind to "go blank."
"Before I had these shots, I could work double shifts and work circles around some people," says Amy, who was a cook in a nursing home. "I had perfect attendance for five years before my hysterectomy and never got sick. When the flu went around I was the only one standing. I was a long-distance runner and a picture of health and now I can't even function because of so many issues with my cognitive functions—it is so hard for me to accept the fact that I have suffered a brain injury from this drug, and I don't know if I will ever recover."
Amy's problems first started last August, when her boss sent her home on medical leave. "I thought I had a brain aneurism, I just couldn't function," Amy says, crying. "I went back to my gynecologist and he put me on hormone replacement therapy, which helped for three months, but the symptoms came back. He doubled the dosage but that worked for about a month. The symptoms became more severe.
"I switched my job to housekeeping, thinking it would be a slower pace but my co-workers noticed my forgetfulness and made fun of me. They pulled pranks on me all the time, like hiding my keys, and I couldn't handle it anymore. I had a nervous breakdown and had to see a psychiatrist."
Some people might chalk up Amy's cognitive problems to menopause, but that wasn't the case.
"When I got home from the psych ward, I read my discharge diagnosis," Amy explains. "It said, in order of relevance: Lupron Depot-induced dementia, followed by Lupron-induced bipolar disorder, then anxiety. The doctor said my anxiety was at such a level that my brain cannot process memories. One of the doctors said my brain cannot process memories." (At this point Amy kept repeating herself.)
"My last day of work was January 4, 2012, the day I went to Marquette General Hospital. Now my doctor is pushing for me to get onto social security benefits—he believes that my brain has been damaged and I am totally disabled. Thankfully, my husband looks after me but it is so hard for my 17-year-old son. I have to be reminded of everything.
"I just can't accept this, how could a drug that causes brain injury stay on the market? A local attorney told me that I cannot sue the drugmaker because I live in Michigan."
Amy's husband explains that a law passed in 1989 said that a resident of Michigan cannot sue a pharmaceutical company. "This attorney said that, because the shots are approved by the FDA, he cannot help Amy," says her husband, "even though he acknowledges that Amy has a brain injury."
"It feels good to talk to you, it feels good to let it out," says Amy, as she takes a deep breath. "This dementia, this brain injury is devastating. I don't want to leave the house and I am embarrassed to be around people. I've lost some friends [at this point Amy is sobbing]… My family understands and that is most important.
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"I hope this doesn't happen to anyone else—this drug shouldn't be on the market. I did some research and found that other people have suffered dementia. It is uncommon but their brains have been damaged from Lupron Depot. If an attorney could just help get my medical bills taken care of I would be happy. It has been so costly I could go crazy just thinking about it.
"Just think—I would never have known this drug caused my brain injury if I hadn't read that discharge report."