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Norplant Availability Unaffected by Settlement.

Physicians don't need to worry about losing access to Norplant in the wake of last month's $50 million, settlement between the manufacturer and thousands of women who claimed they were harmed by the contraceptive device.

Wyeth-Ayerst Laboratories, headquartered in St. Davids, Penn., will continue to produce the implantable levonorgestrel devices, said company spokesperson Audrey Ashby.

Drug industry analysts said that the settlement is not expected to be a serious handicap for Wyeth-Ayerst's parent company, American Home Products Corp., based in Madison, N.J. In fact, many described the settlement amount as a token one.

The agreement offers $1,500 to any of the 36,000 women who filed a suit against the company before March 1, 1999, for failure to adequately warn of the device's side effects. The suits alleged that those side effects included irregular menstrual bleeding, headache, nausea, dizziness, and wild mood swings.

The agreement does not cover the cases in which women are seeking damages after being scarred when having the devices removed, or those women suing because they had a stroke while on the contraceptive.

The company; which had been prevailing in many cases, said its decision to settle was purely a "business decision." Many contraception experts said they were sorry to see the company capitulate to what they said was an example of how litigation can run amok in American society.

Looming larger for American Home Products are the suits concerning fenfluramine-phentermine, the diet drug combination. They could be much more costly since the heart valve damage reputedly caused by fen-phen is presumably a permanent disability.

The popularity of Norplant is not expected to be affected much, since it has already waned considerably from its peak in 1992. Annual U.S. sales of Norplant have fallen from $120.7 million in 1992 to about $4.4 million through November 1997.

Although most contraception experts still maintain that Norplant is a good option for some women, only 2% of women who used contraception in this country used Norplant in 1997, far fewer than used Depo-Provera.

"I think the damage has been done already" by earlier publicity when the suits were filed, said Dr. David A. Grimes, a vice president with Family Health International of Research Triangle Park, N.C., a contraceptive and family planning consulting group. "I would suspect that most women haven't even heard of the settlement."
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Author:KIRN, TIMOTHY F.
Publication:OB GYN News
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Oct 1, 1999
Words:392
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