Judge awards $414M in diet drugs case

April 9, 2008 5:12:09 PM PDT
Attorneys who worked on the mammoth fen-phen diet drug lawsuit were awarded nearly $414 million in additional legal fees by a federal judge who calculated the case had consumed the equivalent of nearly 66 years of litigation. The decision issued Tuesday by Chief District Judge Harvey Bartle III brings the total amount of legal fees awarded to more than $570 million. At least 70 law firms were involved in the decade-long court battle that involved thousands of plaintiffs.

"The raw time expended has been tremendous, but we have no reason to believe it has been unnecessary," Bartle wrote, noting that more than 578,000 hours were spent on the case through March 2007.Attorneys who worked on the mammoth fen-phen diet drug lawsuit were awarded nearly $414 million in additional legal fees by a federal judge who calculated the case had consumed the equivalent of nearly 66 years of litigation.

"(I)t is the equivalent of approximately 24,000 days, or almost 66 years, of around-the-clock work on this litigation," Bartle wrote in his 125-page ruling.

Arnold Levin, one of the lead attorneys for the plaintiffs, said he was satisfied with the decision. The case "required an awful lot of work by a lot of attorneys," Levin said Wednesday.

The judge had previously awarded about $156 million in legal fees, he said.

Madison, N.J.-based pharmaceutical maker Wyeth, formerly known as American Home Products, produced fenfluramine, half of the diet drug cocktail known as fen-phen. It was sold under the brand name Pondimin, along with a chemical cousin called Redux.

The drug combination was pulled from the market in 1997 amid concerns that it caused heart-valve defects and other problems. The phentermine half is still sold.

Levin also noted there is $20 million set aside for future fees because "there's still an abundance of legal work to be done in the case." Payments can be made to potential litigants who display health problems through 2015.

Wyeth originally settled the case in 1999 for $3.75 billion, but that amount has since grown. Company spokesman Douglas Petkus declined to comment Wednesday.


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