A federal appeals court has rejected efforts by Pfizer to overturn a recent lower court decision, which allows individuals diagnosed with persistent pulmonary hypertension (PPH) that developed years after their last use of fen phen to move forward with product liability lawsuits against the makers of the diet drug.
In August, U.S. District Judge Harvey Bartle III refused to exclude expert testimony introduced by plaintiffs, who allege that side effects of fen phen caused them to develop serious lung problems nine or more years after their last use.
Pfizer had argued that the fen phen lawsuits should be dismissed because there was a lack of sound medical evidence linking the medication to the development of PPH such a long time after last use. However, Judge Bartle rejected the attempt to exclude the testimony, finding that it relied on reasonable medical studies and that a jury should be able to determine whether that evidence is sufficient.
On November 6, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed an appeal filed by Pfizer (PDF), refusing to hear oral arguments on the matter.
The ruling keeps the door open for individuals to continue filing lawsuits over PPH from Fen Phen use, more than 15 years after the drug was removed from the market.
Fen-phen was a popular diet drug that involved a combination of phentermine and fenfuramine, which was also marketed seperately as Pondimin. Fenfuramine was recalled in September 1997, after side effects were shown to cause life-threatening pulmonary hypertension and heart valve problems.
Pfizer and their Wyeth subsidiary have faced tens of thousands of lawsuits over fen-phen since it was removed from the market, and the drug makers have reportedly paid out more than $21 billion in diet drug settlements.