Lasting Damage From Fen-Phen Drug

Study Shows Lingering Heart Valve Problems in Former Users of Banned Obesity Drugs Fenfluramine and Dexfenfluramine

Two banned obesity drugs may have lingering effects on the heart, according to a new study.

The study shows that heart valve problems linked to the banned obesity drugs fenfluramine and/or dexfenfluramine typically last years after stopping those drugs.

The FDA ordered fenfluramine and dexfenfluramine off the market in September 1997 after those drugs were linked to heart valve problems. Fenfluramine was one of the ingredients in “fen-phen,” and dexfenfluramine is closely related to fenfluramine. The “phen” in fen-phen refers to a drug called phentermine, which wasn’t banned.

The new study, published online today in BMC Medicine, shows what happened to the hearts of 5,743 former users of fenfluramine and/or dexfenfluramine.

Heart Valve Problems

The patients were seen by doctors including Charles Dahl, MD, of the Central Utah Clinic in Provo, Utah, between July 1997 and February 2004.

During that time, each patient got an echocardiogram and 1,020 patients got two or more echocardiograms 30 months apart, on average.

Dahl’s team searched the echocardiograms for signs of blood leaking back through heart valves (regurgitation), and they noted which patients got surgery to correct heart valve problems.

Kentucky Suspends Lawyers Who Won $200M Fen-Phen Case

Three attorneys have been temporarily suspended from practicing law in Kentucky because of questions about the way they divided a $200 million settlement from a fen-phen lawsuit.

The Kentucky Supreme Court took the action in written rulings released last Thursday.

In an order signed by Deputy Chief Justice Will T. Scott, justices said they found probable cause to believe that the attorneys had diverted funds to their own use.

Linda Gosnell, chief counsel for the Kentucky Bar Association, had argued before the Supreme Court last week that the attorneys — William Gallion, Shirley Cunningham Jr. and Melbourne Mills — improperly took more than their share of the settlement. The lawyers, all from Lexington, represented hundreds of clients in a lawsuit over the diet drug.

“Their conduct was drastic,” Gosnell told the court. “This is a case of absolute, unbridled greed.”

The Kentucky Bar Association’s Inquiry Commission had recommended the temporary suspensions.

Supreme Court Justice Joseph Lambert recused himself from hearing the case.

A lower court judge had previously found that the attorneys in the diet-drug case breached their duty to the more than 400 clients they represented. The clients have sued the lawyers in Boone County Circuit Court in northern Kentucky.

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