The Darvon and Darvocet recall came too late to save the 22-year-old daughter of Tammy and John Gilbert. When Kira Nicole was prescribed Darvocet two years ago, the Gilberts didn’t think they needed to worry. According to a report on Cincinnati.com, they had read the Darvocet package insert and label, yet were left unaware that painkillers like Darvocet, made with the active ingredient propoxyphene, could cause serious and potentially fatal Darvocet side effects including heart rhythm problems in some users.
The Gilberts now believe that propoxyphene-induced heart failure caused their daughter’s 2009 death. Like many others, the Gilberts filed a Darvocet wrongful death lawsuit against Xanodyne Pharmaceuticals, Inc. which makes both Darvocet and Darvon.
Propoxyphene is an opiod painkiller that was first sold as Darvon in 1957. Darvocet is a combination drug made with propoxyphene and acetaminophen. After years of foot-dragging, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) finally asked the makers of propoxyphene products to pull them from the market this past November, after a study conducted by Xanodyne found propoxyphene 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.
Gilbert’s daughter, Nikki, was prescribed Darvocet to ease the pain of an injured knee. According to Cincinnati.com, the young woman was found dead on April 9, 2009, just eight days after she began taking Darvocet. The cause of death – acute cardiac failure with evidence of pulmonary edema. According to the Gilberts, Nikki had no history of prior heart conditions.
The Gilberts blame Darvocet, and their lawsuit claims Xanodyne should have known about the drug’s potentially deadly side effects. Mrs. Gilbert told Cinncinatti.com she hopes lawsuits like her family’s send a lasting message
“These drug companies need to know that there are more important things in this world than money,” she said. “To them, it’s just a number. Our daughter was taken from us, and we’ll never be the same.”
As we’ve reported previously, the dangers of Darvon and Darvocet were known long before the painkillers were recalled. 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 recommended 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. According to Public Citizen, the FDA’s delay has cost thousands of lives.
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.