U.S. District Judge Louis C. Bechtle gave the provisional approval in November. With the exception of one appeal, lawyers said fen-phen users could start getting audits as early as January. For U.S. home products, the agreement is the latest in a series of steps over the past three months aimed at solving long-standing problems. According to Fen-Phen, the immediately superior deal was $3.2 billion against Dow-Corning, which was approved last year in a complaint about defective breast implants. While many of the plaintiffs` lawyers are pleased with the agreement, others are upset by some of the details. For example, for consumers to receive money from the Personal Injury Fund, they must experience measurable heart valve leaks in an order of magnitude used by the Food and Drug Administration. The American Home Products Corporation yesterday agreed to pay a total of $3.75 billion to thousands of people who claim to have been hurt by taking the popular Fen-Phen diet pill combination. Chicagoan Mark Donaway, 41, said he took Fen-phen under medical supervision for six months in 1996 and lost about 65 pounds without side effects. «I guess I was one of the lucky ones,» said Donaway, the chef-owner of Cucina Bella on the West Diversey Parkway. The drugs were withdrawn in September 1997 after a study by the Mayo Clinic Fen-Phen associated potentially fatal lung damage.
The second drug in the combination, phentermine, was not related to the problems. «The payments won`t be large enough to cover the medical costs of a large number of people,» said Ed Blizzard, a Houston lawyer who represents fen-phen users. «A lot of people only get money for what they paid for the drugs.» Donaway said he stopped using fen-phen before he knew it was potentially dangerous. Once the controversy arose, he had a physical examination that was not damaged by his drug use, he said. While industry executives and analysts hailed the deal – which came after months of negotiations and whose terms were widely expected – as a way for the company to leave behind an embarrassing problem, yesterday`s deal does not protect American Home Products from all Fen Phen Phen commitments. However, the fen-phen regime is not as lenient as analysts initially feared. Consumers can opt out on those three points, but if they do so in the last two phases — the screening process and payment — they cannot claim punitive damages against U.S. products at home. The village of Fen-Phen is also an unusual legal maneuver. It is rare for a national group action to allow participants to «unsubscribe» and follow a particular case at three different points. As part of the comparison, consumers may unsubscribe at the beginning if they find that they have a leaky heart value during the screening process or if they discover the amount of their injury premium.
In one of the biggest product liability comparisons of all time, the company that established half of the popular diet combination of drugs agreed Thursday to pay up to $4.8 billion to pay thousands of complaints filed by consumers who say the link put them at risk of developing heart problems. By comparison — one of the largest ever in a case of product liability — people who used one of the dietary drugs for 60 days or less would be entitled to prescription reimbursements of $30 to $60, while those with a heart valve injury could receive up to $1.5 million. «We made this comparison flexible so that more people would participate,» said Stanley Chesley, partner at Waite, Schneider, Bayless-Chesley in Cincinnati, one of the plaintiffs` lead counsel.