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ABOUT FACE: Norplant Victim Sues Wyeth, OBGYN for $120 Million


September 6, 2002

Volume 4/ Number 21

Dear Colleague:

We report this week on a major lawsuit filed against Norplant. PRI is publicizing this suit as part of its ABOUT FACE campaign, designed to inform women and lawyers of their right to access accurate information about methods of family planning and abortion under the Freedom to Access a Clinic Entrance Act (FACE).

If you are a victim of Norplant, or know of any woman who is, and are interested in seeking financial restitution for damages, please contact PRI.

Steven W. Mosher

President 

ABOUT FACE: Norplant Victim Sues Wyeth, OBGYN for $120 Million

The Norplant victim featured in a recent PRI Weekly Briefing (June 18,

2002) is suing Norplant maker Wyeth Pharmaceuticals, and the OBGYN, Yazoo City Medical Clinic, 307 E. Fifteenth Street, Yazoo City, Mississippi, which provided her with the dangerous contraception and then informed her that her serious side effects were not the result of the implant.

The suit points out that as a direct result of the Norplant implant received by this woman in 1993, she has suffered, and will continue to suffer, headaches, dramatic weight gain, facial, chest and stomach hair growth, and constant bleeding, blurred vision, heart damage, seizures which render her disabled, and other damage to her mind and body.

In addition, the mother “has been caused to suffer… enormous medical costs… loss of enjoyment of life and her normal daily activities and reduction of her life expectancy…. She has also suffered a loss of earnings and her earning capacity.”

“Defendents Wyeth and the Yazoo City Medical Clinic should have known, and in fact did know, that Norplant potentially causes these and other drastic side effects… also causes additional serious negative effects on the physiology and biochemistery of tissues in many women taking Norplant, and thus has a general toxic effect upon such women. Defendant, Wyeth, continuously and deliberately failed to make full disclosures of information regarding known risks of Norplant to the public. Specifically, Defendant Wyeth failed to disclose to the appropriate agencies known conditions and circumstances wherein the use of Norplant presented an increased risk of dramatic weight gain, debilitating headaches with seizures, and birth defects.”

The suit notes that the woman sought her attending physician at the Yazoo clinic to remove the implant but she was informed that “in no way could her symptoms be attributed to Norplant.”

Also named as a plaintiff in the suit is the woman’s husband, who is now deprived of his wife’s society; and their daughter, who was conceived in 1996 before the Norplant was removed, and born prematurely. This young girl will suffer serious abnormalities throughout her life. The daughter’s abnormalities include underdeveloped lungs and kidneys.

The suit points out that the mother’s “condition only worsened over the years, until her present attending physician removed the implant; however, although the implant was removed… she is now permanently disabled from the accompanying seizures.”

Wyeth “deliberately concealed” the known risks of Norplant from potential consumers and caused victims “to believe that Norplant could be safely continued.”

“Throughout the period that defendant, Wyeth, was concealing information about the risks of Norplant, from consumers, Wyeth was reaping enormous profits from the sale of the drug.” The suit includes seven counts of

wrongdoing: fraudulent misrepresentation; strict liability; breach of express warranty; breach of implied warranty; negligence; reckless and negligent misrepresentation and lack of informed consent.

The defendant, Wyeth:

  • Made false representations about the safety of Norplant and suppressedfacts about extreme negative side effects, with the intent to deceive and mislead consumers, and which caused the plaintiffs’ injuries.

Wyeth and Yazoo City Medical Clinic:

  • Were regularly engaged in the business of selling Norplant that causedthe injuries suffered by the plaintiffs; sold Norplant in a defective condition unreasonably dangerous to the plaintiff, and acted beneath a reasonable standard of care.
  • Breached their express warranties that Norplant was reasonably safe fornormal use;
  • Breached implied warranties in that the risks of dangers of Norplantoutweighed its benefits;
  • Are negligent because they provided no adequate warnings to theplaintiff;
  • Recklessly, wantonly, and negligently misrepresented the safety ofNorplant and disregarded all anecdotal information pointing to its dangers;
  • Failed to obtain informed consent from the victim. “If the Defendentshad made proper disclosure… of the risks of taking Norplant,” the victim “would not have taken the implant and would not have suffered her debilitating side effects, not would her daughter.”

The victims are being represented by attorneys James D. Bell and Johnny Davis. The suit demands trial by jury and seeks compensatory and punitive damages against the defendants in total of $120 million.

PRI is publicizing this suit as part of its ABOUT FACE campaign, designed to inform lawyers and women of their right to access accurate information about methods of family planning and abortion. ABOUT FACE gets its name from the Freedom to Access a Clinic Entrance Act (FACE), which has been used to prohibit the dissemination of accurate information outside of abortion clinics. In Jane Roe, II vs. Aware Woman Center for Choice precedent, however, the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit ruled that the rights of a victim of forced abortion to have free access to reproductive health services were violated when she was not permitted to leave a clinic.

In the context of this Norplant case, the victim’s right to accurate information about the risks of Norplant were not provided. Her right to freely access reproductive health services were violated. She’s entitled to damages.

The attorneys in this case see it as a first step in a new major class action against Norplant. In a 1999 token settlement, Wyeth paid $54 million to 36,000 victims. Moreover, it has recently withdrawn Norplant from North American markets and ceased production, claiming that it is unable to obtain sufficient raw materials to continue to manufacture the contraceptive.

Norplant is still FDA approved, despite PRI’s massive citizen’s petition calling on FDA to recall the dangerous implant. Norplant is still available in Europe, and for distribution throughout the developing world, through Finnish-based manufacturer Leiras International.

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