PATCH MAKER PAYOUTApr 9, 2006 | www.nypost.com
Women who suffered life-threatening blood clots and strokes on the Ortho-Evra birth-control patch are receiving cash settlements from the manufacturer, which allegedly failed to warn customers about the known risks, The Post has learned.
Ortho-McNeil Pharmaceutical of Raritan, N.J., a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson, has settled a dozen lawsuits for millions of dollars in the last few months, and more than 100 other suits are pending - including one by the family of a deceased 18-year-old Manhattan student.
One lawyer who asked not to be identified said Ortho-McNeil has been "approaching everyone" representing women, and that lawyers have begun submitting cases for settlement.
The increasingly popular Ortho-Evra patch was heavily marketed at its introduction in 2002 with sexy ads, supermodels, and Norwegian beach volleyball players. It was called as safe and effective as the Pill, but more convenient because it's changed just once a week.
The first hint of danger came when Zakiya Kennedy, 18, a Fashion Institute of Technology student and aspiring model, collapsed on a subway platform in April 2004. The city medical examiner attributed her death to the Ortho patch.
The Post since uncovered dozens of women who had died or been crippled after wearing the device, which delivers estrogen to the bloodstream through the skin.
A dozen clients have settled their cases out of court.
They include Philomena Ugochukwa, a 37-year-old mother of two who suffered a blood clot that caused a massive stroke and brain damage after she'd worn the patch less than two weeks.
The former beauty-shop operator was totally paralyzed, and remains an invalid.
The 11 other plaintiffs to settle include women ages 18 to 47, from New Jersey and other states. The women suffered blood clots in the leg, lung and brain; one had a stroke.
Sources estimated Ugochukwa's award at more than $10 million.
Told yesterday about the first settlements, Zakiya Kennedy's grandmother Roberta Alloway, had a bittersweet reaction: "It's too late for my granddaughter, but her death brought all this to light and spread the warning to other young women."
"Some good has come out of it."