The family of a man who died after taking propoxyphene-containing drugs has filed a Darvon lawsuit against Xanodyne Pharmaceuticals, maker of the recalled drugs. The lawsuit claims Cornelius Kellehar’s sudden heart problems were the result of Darvon and Darvocet side effects.
Darvon and Darvocet are opiod painkillers made with the active ingredient propoxyphene. The U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) finally asked the makers of propoxyphene products to pull them from the market in November, after a study conducted by Xanodyne Pharmaceuticals, the maker of Darvon and Darvocet, found it could cause an irregular heartbeat. This condition, called QT prolongation, lengthens the time between the Q wave and T waves, which are two of five electrical impulses that measure the regularity of a heartbeat. There are no symptoms of this condition, but it can lead to a potentially lethal rapid heartbeat called ventricular tachycardia.
According to his family’s lawsuit, Kellehar began taking the painkillers in July 2010 for pain management. He died in early November from sudden heart problems, just before the FDA issued the Darvon and Darvocet recall. The lawsuit claims Xanodyne failed to warn users about the increased risk of potentially fatal Darvon and Darvocet heart problems.
Darvon first came on the market in 1957. Darvocet is a combination drug made with propoxyphene and acetaminophen. According to Public Citizen, which has petitioned the FDA twice since 1978 to ban propoxyphene, the painkiller is not very effective, is toxic at doses not much higher than the recommend dose because a heart-toxic metabolite accumulates in the body, and is somewhat addictive. It has been linked to many thousands of U.S. deaths since 1981, a large proportion of which were likely caused by cardiac toxicity, including the interruption of electrical conduction in the heart, the group said.
Propoxyphene bans were announced in the United Kingdom almost six years ago, and in Europe, almost 1½ years ago. In January 2009, an FDA advisory panel even recommended that propoxyphene be banned in the U.S., but the FDA waited to act.
Defective drug lawyers around the country expect Darvon and Darvon lawsuits could number in the thousands.
“The numbers are astronomical. It has the potential to be as big as fen-phen,” Jerrold Parker, a partner with the national law firm of Parker Waichman LLP, recently told the Daily Record. According to that report, Parker Waichman LLP has received as many as 1,000 phone inquiries per day since Darvon and Darvocet were recalled in November.
As we’ve reported previously, Parker Waichman LLP filed one of the first Darvocet lawsuits on behalf of Karen Esposito, a 31-year-old Queens, New York woman who claims to have suffered a near-fatal heart attack shortly after using the drug. In December, the firm petitioned the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation on Ms. Esposito’s behalf, seeking the consolidation of all federal lawsuits involving Darvon and Darvocet in a multidistrict litigation in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York before the Honorable Jack B. Weinstein.