Fen-Phen Years Ago equals echocardiogram now: Subtle symptoms, hidden damage

Fen-Phen was everywhere in the mid nineties. It was the gold standard for obesity treatment, prescribed by weight-loss clinics and M.D.s alike, and widely available through mail order.

The patented drugs used in the Fen-Phen “off label” combination were Pondimin® and Redux®; in 1996 the two drugs made $300 million for their manufacturer, American Home Products, now Wyeth Pharmaceuticals.

As more people used Pondimin® and Redux®, the list of negative reports and studies of serious side effects began to grow longer, and in 1997 both drugs were withdrawn from the US market.

This was over ten years ago.

The problems caused by the drugs were very significant; in the New England Journal of Medicine article that broke the story, Dr. Heidi Connelly of the Mayo Clinic published a study where valvular heart disease and primary pulmonary hypertension (PPH) were identified in 24 women treated with Fen-Phen who had no previous history of heart problems.

Then the FDA became involved, and in a further study 30 percent of the patients being evaluated had significantly abnormal echocardiograms.

These patients reported a total lack of physical symptoms. They had suffered damage, significant damage, but there was no sign.

What was true then could also be true today – heart disease is known as the ‘silent killer’ – and for many people, especially women, the first sign of heart disease from whatever cause might be a massive heart attack.

If you took Fen-Phen back when, for any amount of time, and you have not been evaluated for heart damage, it is important to have an echocardiogram done. The damage done by the drug combination may not be detectable by physical symptoms.

The other major Fen-Phen side-effect, Primary Pulmonary Hypertension (PPH), does have reported symptoms, though they can be subtle in that they are also the symptoms of obesity.

The American Heart Association’s PPH website says that: “One of the great difficulties in treating PPH is that the diagnosis is often delayed due to the slowly progressive and insidious onset of the symptoms.”

Look for tiredness and fatigue, breathing difficulty, fainting spells or dizziness. In later stages of primary pulmonary hypertension there is swelling of the lower extremities, a bluish cast to the skin, chest pain, and coughing up blood.

Take Note

If you or a loved one have taken the Fen-Phen combination weight loss drug, contact Eric Gruenwald, Attorney / Lawyer at (866) 529-0001, EXT. 245 or by email at help@mulliganlaw.com. The consultation is free of charge, and all cases are taken on a contingency-fee basis – you do not pay for any services unless you receive an award or compensation.

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