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Jurors Begin Deliberations In First Trial On Recalled Cholesterol Drug

Mar 15, 2003 | AP A jury began deliberating Friday in a globally watched $560 million lawsuit against Bayer Corp. over a cholesterol drug that was pulled from the market after being linked to dozens of deaths.

The lawsuit brought by Hollis Haltom, an 82-year-old engineer who said a muscle-wasting disease caused by Baycol severely weakened his legs is the first of about 8,400 cases against Bayer to go to trial.

The panel adjourned for the weekend Friday and will continue deliberations Monday.

Haltom's lawyers produced e-mails and internal documents to argue that the pharmaceutical giant failed to adequately warn doctors about the possible side effects of the billion-dollar drug.

Like other plaintiffs, Haltom suffered from a disease called rhabdomyolysis after his doctor suggested he switch to Baycol.

Pittsburgh-based Bayer has acknowledged the link to rhabdomyolysis but said it acted responsibly by withdrawing the drug in 2001 after the Food and Drug Administration linked it to at least 52 deaths worldwide, including 31 in the United States.

Haltom's lawyers said that number has now grown to 100 deaths worldwide.

They asked for $58 million for suffering and $500 million in punitive damages.

In closing arguments, Bayer attorney Philip Beck acknowledged that Haltom suffered because of Baycol but said the elderly man was blaming unrelated diseases on it. A doctor hired by Bayer found Haltom has many disorders, including diabetes and vascular problems.

"He's an 82-year-old man and he's got a history of really remarkable health problems," Beck said.

Bayer also contended that Haltom's lawyers had taken snippets of e-mails and other internal documents out of context.

Baycol won FDA approval in 1997 and became the fastest-growing drug in Bayer's history and the company's No. 3 seller.

Bayer has paid about $140 million to settle more than 500 Baycol cases. The U.S.-traded stock of German parent Bayer AG has fallen about one-fourth since the trial began in mid-February.

On Wednesday, Bayer said U.S. shareholders had sued Bayer AG over the drop.

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