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The Baycol / Lipobay - Scandal

Bayer in Talks on Cholesterol Drug Cases

FRANKFURG (AP / February 25, 2003) - German drug maker Bayer said Tuesday it is in talks to settle out of court another 500 lawsuits over an anti-cholesterol drug that it withdrew in 2001 after it was linked to dozens of deaths.

The company also said it paid a total of $125 million to settle 450 suits related to severe side effects caused by Lipobay, sold as Baycol in the United States. More than 7,000 suits have been filed against Bayer, most of them in the United States.

All of the 500 cases Bayer is currently trying to settle involve plaintiffs who developed a rare muscle-wasting syndrome called rhabdomyolysis, Dow Jones Newswires quoted Bayer attorney Philip Beck as saying Tuesday. He said most of them made a full recovery.

Bayer, based in Leverkusen near Cologne, has repeatedly said the lawsuits against it are groundless and has settled cases without admitting responsibility. The company has set aside no extra funds, saying its product liability insurance will likely cover any damages.

The New York Times reported over the weekend that executives at Bayer were aware the drug was causing illness and death long before it was pulled off the market.

In response, Bayer said in a statement Tuesday that it monitored doctors' reports on Baycol, shared them with regulators and repeatedly added to the written warnings on the drug's label.

It also accused lawyers for claimants of releasing material selectively to create a false impression of the company's motives and tarnish Bayer's image.

Bayer said it believed Baycol was safe when prescribed according to the instructions and that the company took the drug off the market because doctors were not using it as directed.

Baycol was the worst in a string of setbacks that have cut deep into Bayer's earnings and depressed its share price. The company, which makes Aspirin and anthrax treatment Cipro, said last year it was prepared to merge its drugs business with a larger rival.



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