Settlement reached in Norplant lawsuit

Thursday, August 26th 1999, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) -- The makers of Norplant have agreed to offer
cash settlements to more than 36,000 women who charged that severe
side effects from the contraceptive device were downplayed.

American Home Products Corp. said today its Wyeth-Ayerst
Laboratories subsidiary will settle the claims of women who said
they suffered nausea, irregular menstrual bleeding, headaches and
depression after using Norplant.

"Settling these cases was purely a business decision," Joseph
M. Mahady, president of Wyeth-Ayerst, North America, said in a

He did not specify how much would be paid to settle the claims
by those who used the device, which consisted of six silicone rods
injected into the arm to prevent pregnancy for about five years.

The Dallas Morning News reported today that American Home could
end up paying more than $50 million to end years five years of
litigation over Norplant. The settlement offers $1,500 to each
woman who filed suit before March 1, the newspaper said.

American Home Products, based in Madison, N.J., has consistently
denied wrongdoing, saying the side effects were described in the
labeling for the product.

Before the settlement, the company had won three jury verdicts,
20 pretrial judgments and the dismissal of 14,000 claims by

But, Mahady said, "Our legal success has come at a steep price
because lawsuits are time-consuming, expensive and have a chilling
effect on research."

"Now that the courts have found these cases to be without
merit, we can turn our attention back to providing contraceptive
options for American women."

American Home Products still must contend with thousands of
lawsuits by former users of the diet-drug combination fen-phen,
which plaintiffs allege caused heart valve damage and a potentially
fatal lung disorder.

Blair Hahn, a lawyer at a South Carolina firm that represents
several thousand plaintiffs, said he is recommending that most
clients accept the settlement.

"It's the best deal most of them could get," he told the
Dallas newspaper.