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Protonix Investigation Yields Subpoenas

Aug 5, 2008 | Parker Waichman LLP

A grand jury in Massachusetts investigating Wyeth's Protonix medication has issued the drug maker several subpoenas. The grand jury is probing Wyeth's marketing and pricing of the heartburn drug.  

The Massachusetts Protonix inquiry has been going on since 2005.  According to a regulatory filing recently released by Wyeth, Current and former employees have testified before the grand jury this year. The subpoenas sought ``information and testimony'' about how Wyeth promoted and priced Protonix pills and intravenous products, according to the filing.

Protonix is one of a class of drugs called proton pump inhibitors. Proton pump inhibitors are used to achieve pronounced and long-lasting reduction of gastric acid production.  These drugs are meant to be used in people who suffer from gastric reflux disease and other stomach ailments. Proton pump inhibitors are among the most widely-prescribed drugs in the U.S.  Some patient advocates believe proton pump inhibitors are prescribed too frequently, and not enough attention is paid to their side effects.

One of those side effects may include hip fractures.  In 2006, the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) published a study that indicated that Protonix and other proton pump inhibitors could increase the rip of hip fractures by as much as 260 percent.  

Researchers conducting the proton pump inhibitors collected statistics on 13,556 people with hip fractures and 135,386 healthy people, all aged 50 or older. The researchers discovered that taking a proton pump inhibitor for more than one year increased the threat of hip fracture by 44%, compared with people not taking these medications. Additionally, the risk was 2.6 times higher among people who took high doses over a long period. The risk of hip fracture increased with both the dosage and the duration of proton pump inhibitor therapy.

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