Fen Phen diet pills have been linked to heart valve injuries and Persistent Pulmonary Hypertension (PPH), a life-threatening, permanent disorder. Sometimes, people are not diagnosed with these injuries for many years.
What is Fen Phen?
Fen Phen is a diet pill that became very popular in the 1990s, as the obesity epidemic in the U.S. reached critical proportions. Fen Phen and other diet pills were used by millions of overweight people who were looking for a quick, effective way to lose weight. Unfortunately, the pills did not help many people lose weight, and came with serious, deadly side effects.
The medication contained fenfluramine, a drug that released high levels of serotonin in the brain. The high amounts of serotonin made people feel satiated, and supposedly less likely to eat, but also made people feel drowsy. To combat the sedative effects of fenfluramine, Fen Phen contained a second drug, called phentermine, which is a mild stimulant.
In 1995, the drug cocktail known as Fen Phen hit the U.S. market and the mainstream media. The company launched a $52 million marketing campaign advertising the weight-loss pill, and the use of the drug boomed: In 1996, more than 18 million prescriptions were filled, and sales were in excess of $300 million.
The sudden success of Fen Phen was to be short-lived, however. In August 1997, the New England Journal of Medicine published an article from a doctor who had treated 24 cases of unusual valvular disease in women who were taking Fen Phen. The FDA would receive reports of 75 cases of heart valve disease in 1997, and the regulatory agency took quick action to remove the products from the U.S. market. On September 15, 1997, the drug was pulled out of the U.S. market. In 1999, a major Fen Phen class action lawsuit was filed against the drug-maker.
What is the problem with Fen Phen?
In 2003, Forbes reported that the company that produces Fen Phen had paid more than $13 billion in lawsuits. The people bringing the cases claim that the company knew that the diet pills had serious side effects, but marketed them as safe and effective anyway to increase profits.
Primary Pulmonary Hypertension (PPH) Linked to Fen Phen
What is Primary Pulmonary Hypertension (PPH)? PPH is a disease that affects the heart and lungs, in which the major blood vessels that connect the heart and lungs constrict, increasing pressure in the lungs. The increase in pressure makes it harder for the heart to pump blood into the lungs, so less blood becomes oxygenated whenever the person breaths. It can also cause the heart to become weakened, leading to heart failure and death.
There is no cure for PPH. It is a permanent, debilitating condition. A person that has this disorder experiences dizziness, exhaustion, fatigue, fainting, and may suffer heart failure.
What are the symptoms of PPH?
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
- Bluish color in the skin, lips, or nails (called “cyanosis”)
- Increased chest pain
- Heart failure
Injuries Linked to Fen Phen
- Primary Pulmonary Hypertension (PPH)
- Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension (PAH)
- Heart valve damage
- Leaky heart valve
- Irregular heartbeat
- Heart murmur
- Damage to blood vessels in the lungs
- Heart failure
Long-Term Fen Phen Side Effects
The long-term side effects of Fen Phen may not be diagnosed for decades after a person discontinues the pills. Wyeth Pharmaceuticals is already facing two lawsuits on behalf of women who used Fen Phen and were diagnosed with PPH approximately 10 years later. Attorneys for Wyeth attempted to have the lawsuits thrown out. However, a federal judge decided that there is evidence that Fen Phen injuries may not be diagnosed for several years.
In fact, many experts and studies warn that Fen Phen side effects may have a latency period. PPH and other heart problems often grow progressively worse over time. Damage to blood vessels in the lungs causes high blood pressure, progressive enlargement of the heart muscle, and other life-threatening cardiovascular injuries.