American Home Products Corp. said Friday a Texas jury has awarded a woman $56.5 million for heart damage she claimed was caused by two company diet drugs once used in the "fen-phen" weight-loss cocktail.

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The Food and Drug Administration has asked manufacturers to voluntarily withdraw both fenfluramine and dexfenfluramine from the market…

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News Articles dealing with fen-phen issues and judgements as they appear in USA Today.

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PRIMARY PULMONARY HYPERTENSION



PPH
Symptoms

Initial symptoms of PPH may be very minor, and diagnosis can be delayed for several years until symptoms worsen.

Typical PPH symptoms may include:
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Dizziness, fainting, and weakness
  • Excessive fatigue
  • Bluish lips and skin
  • Ankle swelling
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Dangers of Fen Phen

>Heart Valve Defects
>Primary Pulmonary Hypertension
>Neuropsychological Damage

Fen-phen is the common name for the drug containing either pondimin (fenfluramine) or redux (dexfenfluramine), and taken in combination with phentermine (an amphetimine-like drug). Essentially, fen-phen acts to alter the levels of serotonin in the brain that effectively block the impulses that tell us we’re hungry. Because of this, fen-phen was used to help people lose weight. By affecting the serotonin levels in the brain, fen-phen can cause primary pulmonary hypertension, heart valve problems, and neuropsychological damage to the brain.

Heart Valve Defects

Fen-phen is known to cause problems with the aortic and mitral valves. When these valves are impaired, they can cause blood to be regurgitated into the ventricle and left atrium. The symptoms of heart valve disease may be subtle---existent in the presence of shortness of breath and chest pain. Treatment can include medication, a valvoplasty, or a repair of the damaged heart valves and/or heart valve replacement surgery. This condition often requires long term heart monitoring and medication.

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Primary Pulmonary Hypertension

Primary pulmonary hypertension (PPH) is a rare disease that has no known cause that results in the progressive narrowing of the blood vessels of the lungs. This, in turn, leads to high blood pressure in these blood vessels and can eventually lead to heart failure. Secondary pulmonary hypertension (SPH) is the result of other types of lung disease, abnormal breathing processes or heart disease.

The use of fenfluramine (and derivatives) and dexfenfluramine has been found to increase the risk of developing primary pulmonary hypertension, especially when the usage lasts for more than three months. Studies estimate that treatment with certain appetite suppressant drugs increases the risk of developing PPH from 1 to 28 cases (per million persons treated in one year).

Initial symptoms of primary pulmonary hypertension may be very minor, and diagnosis can be delayed for several years until symptoms worsen. Typical symptoms may include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Dizziness, fainting, and weakness
  • Excessive fatigue
  • Bluish lips and skin
  • Ankle swelling

It is often difficult to detect primary pulmonary hypertension in a routine medical examination. Even when the disease has progressed, the signs and symptoms may be confused with other conditions that affect the heart and the lungs. Primary pulmonary hypertension is diagnosed only after several possible causes of pulmonary hypertension are excluded. Typically, additional tests are needed to positively diagnose primary pulmonary hypertension.

Fen-phen is the common name for the combination of the drugs pondimin (fenfluramine), redux (dexfenfluramine) and phentermine

The prognosis for patients with primary pulmonary hypertension can cover a wide spectrum. Many patients report that lifestyle changes allow them to perform many of their day-to-day affairs. The median period of survival is three years after diagnosis, although the survival rate is generally longer for those patients without heart failure and for those patients diagnosed after 40.

The condition is treated with a number of drugs that work to cure or halt the progression of this disease, although they may only help to relieve certain symptoms. Some patients take vasodilators, which help to dilate the blood vessels in the lungs and help reduce the blood pressure in them. In addition, anticoagulants may be used to decrease the tendency of the blood to clot in the lungs. Although medication helps certain patients, patients with severe primary pulmonary hypertension may require and be candidates for a lung or heart-lung transplant.

If you have taken either fen-phen or redux for more than three months and have any shortness of breath, chest pain or unusual fatigue, the Federal Drug Administration and the American Board of Cardiology recommend that individuals undergo an echocardiogram to detect for the possibility of medical problems.

Neuropsychological Damage

Neuropsychological damage is difficult to determine because physicians are unable to sample and analyze human brain cells. If there is serious concern over neuropsychological damage for symptoms such as cognitive disturbance, memory loss, mood swings, behavioral changes, psychotic breakdowns, or depression, patients should consult a neuro-specialist.

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