The issue with fen-phen (a combination of fenfluramine and phentermine) was an increased risk of primary pulmonary hypertension, an incurable condition that can take more than a decade to develop. Lawsuits were filed with patients claiming they developed primary pulmonary hypertension as a result of their use of fen-phen.
But some patients may have initially filed a lawsuit linked to injuries less serious than primary pulmonary hypertension, only to have their less serious injuries develop into life-threatening conditions.
As recently as 2012, a judge hearing lawsuits regarding fen-phen refused to dismiss those lawsuits from the courts, ruling that there was enough scientific evidence to show that primary pulmonary hypertension could develop more than a decade after the patient took fen-phen. Pfizer Inc - parent company to Wyeth - had argued that there was no evidence that taking fen-phen could cause primary pulmonary hypertension a decade later, and moved to dismiss two lawsuits.
But Judge Bartle ruled that expert testimony for the plaintiffs was based on reasonable medical evidence. As a result, the judge refused to dismiss the lawsuits and further refused to exclude the expert testimony, though he did note that it is up to a jury to determine if taking fen-phen resulted in the development of primary pulmonary hypertension.
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In most situations, the statute of limitations begins running at the point when a patient knows or should have known that the drug did or could cause injury. Patients who were not immediately harmed by fen-phen can still argue they did not know they were injured by the drug until recently and therefore may be able to file a lawsuit.
The lawsuit is In re Diet Drugs Products Liability Litigation, MDL No. 1203, US District Court, Eastern District of Pennsylvania.