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Baycol Trial Opens, The First of Its Kind In Nation

Feb 21, 2003 | Corpus Christi Caller Times

Attorneys for a man who claims a cholesterol drug caused his health to deteriorate accused its manufacturer of pushing through an unsafe drug to maximize profits.

Opening arguments began Thursday in a lawsuit against Bayer Pharmaceutical Co. over its recalled drug Baycol. At issue is the company's role in producing and marketing the drug and its responsibility in causing Hollis Haltom's health problems. The case is considered the first of its kind to go on trial in the nation.

An attorney for the company said researchers had been working on a cholesterol-fighting drug since the mid-1980s and that Haltom, 82, suffered from various medical ailments before he was prescribed Baycol.

Bayer removed the drug from the U.S. market in August 2001 after reports of rhabdomyolysis-induced fatalities. Rhabdomyolysis is a breakdown of muscle tissue that causes renal failure and liver damage. The condition is believed to have appeared after Haltom took samples of Baycol for less than a month. When the drug was removed from the market, the FDA reported 31 deaths in the United States because of rhabdomyolysis associated with the use of Baycol.

Plaintiff's attorney Rickey Brantley told jurors that officials within Bayer were warning of the drug's effects. Despite that, the company sought to market the drug in higher dosages for profit, he said.

Bayer attorney Philip Beck told jurors the company pulled the drug because some doctors weren't prescribing the drug properly. Bayer repeatedly notified doctors and users that muscle breakdown could occur if the drug was initially prescribed in its highest dosage available and if taken with gemfibrozil, another cholesterol-lowering drug.

Attorneys are seeking an unspecified amount of damages in the lawsuit. A pharmaceutical sales representative who provided the drug to Haltom's doctor is also named in the lawsuit.

The trial is being held in County Court-at-Law No. 4. Testimony is expected to continue today in the fifth floor courtroom of the Nueces County Courthouse. The trial is expected to last three weeks.

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