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
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.