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Drug Suit Among Many Nationwide

Jan 1, 2002 | The Raton Range

The wife of a deceased Raton man is suing the maker of a diabetes drug that her husband used prior to his January 2000 death. Two months after the death of 76-year-old George Krulyac, the drug Rezulin was pulled from the market in reaction to ongoing concerns about liver failure and other potential side effects apparently caused by the drug.

Throughout the nation, lawsuits filed at the district court level by former Rezulin users and their families have become so prevalent that a seven-member judicial panel designated by the chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court has been assigned to coordinate the legal proceedings arising from the district court cases. Initial meetings of the panel are planned for this May in Washington, D.C. A June 2002 Los Angeles Times article reported more than 2,000 Rezulin lawsuits had been filed.

Some Rezulin cases have already gone through district courts. The first six civil trials were completed during the first half of last year and resulted in two juries deciding in favor of the drug company and four others ending in multi-million-dollar verdicts or settlements for the plaintiffs.

A $24.9 million verdict in a Rezulin case in Texas in January 2002 ranked as the 91st largest monetary verdict in the country in 2002, according to The National Law Journal. That case involved an 80-year-old woman who allegedly died after taking Rezulin. The jury deliberated for only an hour before announcing its verdict.

Like other Rezulin lawsuits nationwide, the suit filed last week in Raton district court by Emily Krulyac accuses pharmaceutical company Warner-Lambert, the manufacturer of Rezulin, of conducting insufficient studies of the drug before seeking federal approval of the drug, as well as failing to inform the public, doctors, hospital, clinics and pharmacists of the dangerous side effects associated with the drug even after the company allegedly knew of potential dangers.

Also named in the Krulyac suit is drug maker Pfizer, Inc., which inherited the mounting litigation connected with Rezulin when Pfizer acquired Warner-Lambert in mid-2000, shortly after Rezulin had been pulled from the market. The suit, which seeks unspecified monetary damages under New Mexico's "Wrongful Death Act," also names other subsidiary drug companies as defendants.

The suit also names Raton physician Dr. Hugh Naylor as a defendant. Naylor prescribed Rezulin for George Krulyac, according to the suit, which alleges that the doctor failed to inform his patient of risks that could be associated with the use of Rezulin. Naylor did not return a Range phone call seeking comment.

Rezulin was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in January 1997. Not long after the agency gave the drug "fast-track" approval, allowing it to be prescribed by doctors for patients in the general public, reports of liver-related deaths began to be connected to the drug.

Rezulin was promoted by its makers as a "once-a-day" pill that would allow some people with adult-onset Type II diabetes to stop taking insulin injections, according to the Krulyac suit. George Krulyac was diagnosed as diabetic prior to his taking Rezulin, the suit says, and he died while taking Rezulin.

The suit lists several health side effects that allegedly have been linked to Rezulin. The list includes heart disease, hepatitis, jaundice, liver failure and death. Liver failure appears to be the most commonly mentioned hazard that has been associated with Rezulin.

The Krulyac suit alleges the Rezulin makers "consciously ignored and understated the health risks associated with Rezulin" and that the companies used "manipulation of statistics to suggest acceptability in the medical and lay community." The June 2002 Los Angeles Times article reported that although a panel of experts at the National Institutes of Health found that Rezulin "probably" caused the death of a woman in a NIH study and the coroner's death certificate listed the "underlying cause" of death as Rezulin. However, the Times report said, Warner-Lambert issued a news release that blamed the death on factors "unrelated" to Rezulin.

The Krulyac suit claims some scientists who participated in the NIH study of Rezulin were also consultants for Warner-Lambert and were receiving grants from the company.

The Krulyac suit claims that between March 1997 and March 1999, the two years immediately after Rezulin was approved for use, 53 deaths were associated with Rezulin, and 21 were linked to liver failure.

Emily Krulyac is being represented by a Gallup attorney, as well as a Houston law firm that has handled other Rezulin cases, including the Texas case that won the $24.9 million verdict last year.

George Krulyac was married to Emily 53 years. He was the father of one son and three daughters. He was a World War II veteran and retired miner who was living at Miners' Colfax Medical Center Long-term Care facility when he died.

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