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Attorney Toriseva: The Digitek War

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Wheeling, WVWithin the next two years, the American manufacturers of a heart medicine called Digitek will be hit with hail of lawsuits and attorney Teresa Toriseva expects to be one of the personal injury lawyers leading the charge. In April of 2008, the FDA issued a drug recall notice after a number of patients experienced problems. "There are hundreds and probably thousands of cases," says Toriseva. "The number of cases is still developing and nobody can give you anything but a gut estimate. Clients are still being screened and reaching out, looking for help."

The facts about the Digitek case are still unfolding, but even before the FDA recall in April, there were problems at the plant in Morristown New Jersey, where Actavis Group manufactured the drug for Mylan Pharmaceuticals. "We know that something was wrong in the manufacturing equipment and processes that was causing double dose pills to be produced," says Toriseva. "We also know two previous FDA inspections, both of which found significant problems in the quality control procedures, specifically said there is no guarantee of dosage consistency."

Digitek (digoxin) is used to treat arrhythmia and congestive heart failure. Incorrect dosages of the drug could cause a serious cardiac event or digitalis toxicity—that can lead to kidney failure, nausea, vomiting, a reduced heart rate or even death.

Toriseva's firm in West Virginia is currently looking at the medical records of a number of potential Digitek personal injury cases that have come forward and contacted the firm. "It is a matter of talking to the client as much as possible," says Toriseva. "As medical records come in we do an internal review and then another review in conjunction with a cardiologist. So it is a process."

It is very likely that patients who were taking Digitek have been contacted by letter about potential problems; however, Toriseva suggests that people who were taking Digitek between March 2007 and April 2008, and have had an adverse reaction, should contact a lawyer.

"They would know if they had a problem; it would have been a serious event," says Toriseva. "If they never had a problem, they don't need legal help."

Toriseva is a well-known attorney in West Virginia. A practicing lawyer for 14 years, she has a degree in biology and began her law career doing medical malpractice suits. "My firm represents consumers and people harmed by companies that don't act responsibly," she says. "It is really where my heart is and I feel like I am able to make a difference. The drug litigation work and the science are all rolled into one and it is a natural fit for me."

A former president of the West Virginia Bar Association for Justice, Toriseva frequently speaks out on issues in the public interest. She expects the Digitek lawsuits will begin moving through the courts as soon as next year. The key to successful litigation in these cases is meticulous preparation and pursuing litigation only when it is appropriate. "I am one of those careful, cautious screeners," she says. "The causation is important to prove, and it is the plaintiff's burden to prove it in court, so ultimately it makes it my burden."

Toriseva will share her considerable knowledge about Digitek with delegates to the Mass Torts Conference in Las Vegas in October.

Teresa Toriseva has a B.S. in Biology from the Wheeling Jesuit University (1992) and earned her J.D. at the West Virginia University College of Law (1995). She is the host of a weekly segment on law and politics on WKKX AM 1600.

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