Dispensing with the Truth: the legal battle over fen-phen

Dispensing with the Truth Dispensing with the Truth
Copyright © 2001
St. Martin's Press, LLC
reprinted with permission

The Victims, the Drug Companies, and the Dramatic Story Behind the Battle Over Fen-Phen

by Alicia Mundy

In 1996 a terrible epidemic began. Thousands of women were stricken ill and many of them died. Some died quickly, within a few months; others lasted a couple of years. Many of those who didn't die suffered damage to their hearts and lungs, much of it permanent. Doctors suspected what the killer was. So did the FDA. The culprit was one half of the most popular diet-drug combinations on the market, Fen-Phen. It was produced and sold by a powerful pharmaceutical company, Wyeth-Ayerst, a division of American Home Products.

Dispensing with the Truth is the gripping story of what the drug company really knew about its drugs, the way it kept its information from the public, doctors , and the FDA, and the massive legal battles that ensued as victims and their attorneys searched for the truth behind the debacle.

It tells the story of a healthy young woman, Mary Linnen, who took the drugs for only twenty-three days to lose weight before her wedding, and then died in the arms of her fiance a few months later. Hers was the first wrongful-death suit filed and would become the most important single suit the company would face.

Alicia Mundy provides a shocking and thoroughly riveting narrative. It is a stark look at the consequences of greed and a cautionary tale for the future.

Ms. Mundy describes Robinson & Cole's MTCL group this way:

"Robinson & Cole [is] one of the most prominent legal organizations in New England, the firm that Samuel Clemens-Mark Twain had used for literary and legal issues. With almost two hundred lawyers and offices in Connecticut and New York City . . . . It gave Alex what he had always wanted - the power of an old-line law firm with the resources of a megalithic corporation - enough to go toe-to-toe with any major defendant and its phalanx of retainer lawyers. 'This is what I can give you,' Alex said to the Linnens."

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