People Sue Diet Drug Maker Over Alleged Side Effects - Cleveland 19 News Cleveland, OH

People Sue Diet Drug Maker Over Alleged Side Effects

CLEVELAND (AP) - Five users of the diet drug Meridia have sued Abbott Laboratories over alleged side effects, including heart problems.

The lawsuit filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court asked that Abbott Laboratories stop selling Meridia and pay for the medical expenses and loss of earnings brought on by the drug's alleged side effects.

The lawsuit asked that it be made a class-action on behalf of others who have filed similar lawsuits.

Jill Smoter, a spokeswoman for North Chicago, Ill.-based Abbott, said possible side effects are clearly listed for doctors and patients.

In recent statements, Abbott said Meridia, in combination with diet and exercise, can help patients lose weight. It said the drug is safe, based on an analysis of the 12,000 patients involved in clinical trials.

Abbott also has noted that people taking the drug are severely overweight, meaning they are likely to have other health problems. The lawsuit claimed that the company failed to warn people about the severity of the drug's side effects when Meridia hit pharmacy shelves in 1998.

One plaintiff, Connie Fitzgerald of Lima, Ohio, said she never had any heart problems until she started taking the drug. Doctors have since found a blockage in an artery.

Last month federal regulators said Abbott hadn't properly reported the death of a Meridia user and certain other risk information to the government.

Abbott said the death was a rumor it couldn't substantiate and said it had fully responded to the government's other findings.

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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