The makers of the popular pain reliever Plavix face a St. Clair County lawsuit filed by 70 people who claim they suffered strokes and heart attacks after taking the drug.
Touted as a "super aspirin," Plavix can allegedly cause heart attacks, internal bleeding, strokes, blood disorders or death, according to the recently filed complaint.
Lead plaintiff Leroy Pirtle of Washington Park and 69 others from across the country claim they suffered such maladies after taking Plavix, a drug manufactured by defendants Bristol-Myers Squibb Company and Sanofi Aventis.
Christopher Cueto and Michael Gras of the Law Office of Christopher Cueto in Belleville and Robert L. Salim of Natchitoches, La., will be representing them.
They say they began taking the drug after its makers promoted the drug to be more effective than aspirin to prevent heart attacks and strokes. In addition, the companies said the drug "would give a person even greater cardiovascular benefits than a much less expensive, daily aspirin while being safer and easier on a person's stomach than aspirin," the suit states.
In addition, Bristol-Myers Squibb and Sanofi allegedly marketed their drug as safe for use with aspirin, although such a claim had not been established, the complaint says. In fact, the claim has been proven false, and the combined therapy is even more dangerous in patients who do not have peripheral arterial disease and acute coronary syndrome, the plaintiffs allege in their complaint.
The FDA has cracked down on Bristol-Myers Squibb and Sanofi a number of times for this and other marketing ploys that misinformed patients and their physicians, according to the complaint.
"The result is that physicians are prescribing Plavix to people who could be cheaply and effectively protected against ischemic events by a simple aspirin, to pay approximately $4.00 a day for a dose of Plavix," the suit states.
"Defendants' nearly eight-year run of lying to physicians and to the public about the safety and efficacy of Plavix for the sole purpose of increasing corporate profits has now been uncovered by scientific studies that not only is Plavix not worth its high price -- it is dangerous."
As a result of their lies and omissions, Bristol-Myers Squibb and Sanofi have sold $3.8 billion worth of Plavix annually, the plaintiffs claim.
In addition to their exaggerated marketing claims, the makers of Plavix failed to adequately warn of the dangers of the drug in package inserts included in the medication's packaging, the suit states.
"Despite the growing body of scientific knowledge that the four-dollar Plavix pill was not much better than a four-cent-a-day aspirin, Defendants kept promoting it to the public and to physicians, using hyperbole and outright falsification in the process," the suit states.
Because of the defendants' actions, the plaintiffs have suffered severe and permanent injuries in addition to their heart attacks, strokes, excessive bleeding and stent replacements, the complaint says. They also suffered physical impairment, disfigurement, physical pain and suffering; lost their enjoyment of life; and incurred medical costs, the plaintiffs claim.
In their complaint, the plaintiffs allege strict products liability, manufacturing defect, failure to warn and negligence against the defendants.
The plaintiffs seek economic and compensatory damages, plus costs, attorney's fees and other relief the court deems just.
St. Clair County Circuit Court case number: 12-L-383.