Protopic suit refiled in St. Clair County

Ann Knef Feb. 25, 2008, 7:16am

Astellas Pharma Inc. is being sued in St. Clair County Circuit Court again by claimants who allege Protopic, a skin disease ointment, caused lymphoma.

Sabra Leonberger claims her father Bill Woods, Jr. died of T-cell lymphoma -- a type of Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma -- in October 2005, after having used Protopic to treat dermatitis on his foot and lower leg.

According to the complaint filed Jan. 25, Woods began using Protopic in April 2004, and was diagnosed with cancer in January 2005.

John Lancaster of St. Louis also is listed as a plaintiff claiming he developed non-Hodgkin's lymphoma after using the product for a year.

The plaintiffs were named in a 64-count suit filed Oct. 10, 2007, in St. Clair County.

Lancaster claims he was prescribed Protopic in April 2004 to be applied two times a day to treat dermatitis of the palms. On April 25, 2005, he was diagnosed with cancer.

The active ingredient in Protopic is tacrolimus, which works by affecting the body's immune system.

The suit claims the defendants failed to adequately advise physicians of the risks of using Protopic "including the risk of developing malignancies," the complaint states. Other risks, according to the suit, include skin irritation and immunosuppressive diseases.

"Defendants, individually and collectively, downplayed and understated the health hazards and risks associated with the use of tacrolimus, and, through promotional literature as well as sales visits to prescribing physicians, deceived prescribing physicians and potential users of tacrolimus by relaying positive information, while concealing the nature and extent of known adverse and serious health effects," the complaint states.

The plaintiffs are represented by John Driscoll and Seth Sharrock Webb of Brown & Crouppen in St. Louis.

The defendants include API, a Japanese corporation, Astellas Pharma US, Inc., Astellas US, LLC and Astellas Pharma Manufacturing, Inc.

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