Diet to Death

Diet to Death
Boston Herald,
May 6, 1997, 001.
reprinted with permission

Woman Killed by Fen/Phen, Suit Alleges
by Ed Hayward

The wildly popular anti-fat pills known as "fen-phen" killed a 30-year-old Quincy woman who simply wanted to trim down for a smaller wedding dress, her family charged in a landmark lawsuit filed yesterday.

The suit filed in Middlesex Superior Court by Mary J. Linnen's parents, Thomas and Mary Linnen or Orchard Park, N.Y., is the first claim in the nation blaming the drugs for a death.

"Instead of walking down the aisle before a bride," said Mrs. Linnen, "I walked behind a casket."

Fen-phen is used by more than 18 million people - with sales of more than $191 million in 1996.

Linnen, who took the drugs for 24 days before she began feeling ill and stopped, endured a disease that slowly robbed her of the use of her heart and lungs and killed her on Feb. 22.

Her death, the state Medical Examiner's office ruled, was caused by "pulmonary hypertension associated with fenfluramine and Phentermine" - the drugs known together as fen-phen.

"For a parent to lose a child is devastating," said Mrs. Linnen. "When you lose a child for a reason that is totally unnecessary, it's even more horrible. This need not have happened."

The Linnen family's attorney said the case is about providing patients with all the facts about new drug treatments.

"This case is fundamentally about drug safety," said Alex H. MacDonald of the Boston firm Robinson and Cole. "It's about the public's right and need to know about the most serious adverse risks that prescription drugs may present."