Archive for September, 2008

Class Action Lawsuit filed against Applebee’s and Weight Watchers International

Tuesday, September 30th, 2008

A class action lawsuit has been filed in the US District Court for the District of Kansas against Appleebee’s restaurants, its parent company DineEquity, Inc. and Weight Watchers International, Inc. claiming that their dishes featured in their Weight Watchers menu were misleading to customers. The lawsuit alleges claims under the federal RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations) Act and Kansas consumer protection laws.

The complaint filed stated that Applebee’s mislabeled the fat, calorie and fiber content of each dish thus causing the patron to consume more calories than advertised. In one example cited (the Cajun Lime Tilapia) the actual fat and calorie content was significantly higher than what was listed in the menu (14.3 grams of fat and 401 calories in reality versus the 6 grams of fat and 310 calories listed on the menu). The testing of this dish was completed by Analytical Labs of Boise, ID. The complaint also alleges that Weight Watchers betrayed its supporters by developing, advertising and approving a menu that is inconsistent with the Weight Watchers diet.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of all US citizens who purchased items during the past four years from the Weight Watchers menu at Applebee’s restaurants. The lead plaintiff in the case is Antonio Fidelis Valiente of Bethesda, MD. In the complaint it is asserted that Mr. Valiente was a frequent patron of Applebee’s Restaurants in the Miami, Boston, Nashville, and Washington areas and dined there at least 25 times since the Weight Watchers menu was created. Mr. Valiente stated that had he known the actual nutritional makeup of the dishes he would not have eaten at the restaurants.

The lawsuit seeks class-wide damages and injunctive relief. The suit also asks that Weight Watchers and Applebee’s be required to surrender to the plaintiffs any profits were made from the sale of the menu items.

Applebee’s was founded in 1983 and is headquartered in Overland Park, KS. Weight Watchers International, Inc. was founded in 1963 and has tens of thousands of employees worldwide.

Baxter Healthcare Heparin Lawsuits

Tuesday, September 30th, 2008

Heparin is injected to prevent blood from clotting or to allow the body to naturally break down clots that have already formed. It may be used in patients suffering from such illnesses as acute coronary syndrome (such as myocardial infarction), atrial fibrillation, deep-vein thrombosis, pulmonary embolism, and cardiopulmonary bypass. Heparin has been in use since 1916 and is one of the oldest drugs still administered widespread for clinical use.

The known side effects of heparin are heparin-induced thrombocytopenia (HIT Syndrome) and in rarer cases, alopecia and osteoporosis. An overdose of heparin can also be life threatening. A nurse in the Czech Republic, Petr Zelenda, was convicted of killing seven patients in 2006 via an overdose of heparin. But, not all overdoses are intentional. In November 2007, actor Dennis Quaid and his wife Kimberly Buffington saw their newborn twins mistakenly given an overdose of heparin. The twins, not quite two weeks old, were given an adult dosage of heparin, which is 1,000 times stronger than that recommended for infants. It is believed that the dosage labeling was not clear and Quaid filed a lawsuit against Baxter Healthcare for $50,000. Despite the overdose, it appears that the twins will be fine. The typical treatment for a heparin overdose is protamine sulfate.

In addition to heparin overdoses, Baxter Healthcare had to recall a shipment of heparin in December 2007 due to contamination after receiving reports of adverse reactions. More recalls of heparin was made in January, February, and March 2008. Several unopened syringes in a specific shipment were found to contain a bacteria called serratia marcescens, which can be life threatening or fatal. The symptoms of using the contaminated heparin are stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, low blood pressure, chest pain, fast heart rate, dizziness, fainting and shortness of breath, tachycardia, burning sensation, flushing and redness of the skin, sweating, thirst, headache, and restlessness. It is believed that the contaminated heparin vials came from a Scientific Protein plant in China. The Food and Drug Administration received reports of over 785 patients who were seriously injured and at least 19 dying after taking the contaminated heparin. The FDA issued a public health advisory on February 11, 2008 to inform the public of the reports received.

Currently, there have been many lawsuits filed against Baxter Healthcare due to the heparin contamination. One was by the family of a man in Missouri who died after an allergic reaction. By the end of April 2008, there were at least sixteen lawsuits against Baxter Healthcare.

If you or someone you know experienced adverse reactions after taking heparin, you should consult a lawyer to protect your legal rights as a patient and get you the compensation you deserve.

FDA Public Health Advisory: Fentanyl Transdermal Patches and potentially life threatening side effects

Friday, September 26th, 2008

In 2005 the FDA had issued a public health advisory about safety warnings regarding the use of the Fentanyl Transdermal (Skin) Patches. The original Public Health Advisory was issued in July, 2005; an updated Public Health Advisory was issued in December, 2007.

In the Public Health Advisory titled “Important Information for the Safe Use of Fentanyl Transdermal System (Patch)” the FDA opened by stating this was being released to alert patients, caregivers, and healthcare professionals of important information regarding the save use of the patch, marketed under the brand name Duragesic, as well as with the generic equivalents of this product.

The FDA stated that they have received continued reports of death and “life-threatening” side effects in patients who use the patch when it was prescribed for inappropriate reasons. Fentanyl is not designed for patients who have short term pain, pain that is not constant, or for pain following a surgical procedure, for example. It is designed for use in patients with chronic pain who are opioid-tolerant (meaning they take regular narcotic medicine for pain and are more resistant to the dangerous side effects of narcotic pain medicine).

The FDA warns that even the lowest dose Fentanyl patch available can cause dangerous side effects in patients who are not opioid-tolerant. These side effects can include respiratory issues (severe trouble breathing or very slow and shallow breathing) and even death.

In this statement the FDA indicates that doctors have been prescribing the Fentanyl patch for patients when it is not an appropriate treatment – patients with acute pain following surgery, for headaches, or other mild pain. It also states that patients are using the Fentanyl patch incorrectly – applying more than is prescribed, or applying a heat source to the patch, for example. This increases the amount of Fentanyl in the bloodstream which makes an overdose more likely.

Important safety information was highlighted by the FDA in this Advisory:

  • The patch should be used only for opioid-tolerant patients with chronic pain not well controlled with other medications.
  • Healthcare professionals should be aware of the signs of a Fentanyl overdose.
  • Patients using the Fentanyl patch should tell their doctor of all the medicines they take.
  • Patients and caregivers must be given careful and correct instructions on how to use the patch.
  • Heat can increase the amount of Fentanyl in the bloodstream, leading to potentially life-threatening breathing problems and death.

In June, 2007 a $5 million plus jury verdict was awarded to the family of a Florida man who died while using the Fentanyl transdermal patch. The defendants in this case were Johnson & Johnson subsidiaries, Alza Corporation, and Janssen Pharmaceutica Products, the manufacturer of the Fentanyl transdermal patch marketed under the name Duragesic. The Texas law firm of Heygood, Orr, Reyes, Pearson & Bartolomei represented the family of the deceased in this lawsuit, brought in the Federal District Court for the Southern District of Florida, West Palm Beach Division.

Gardasil lawsuit (linked to paralysis)

Thursday, September 25th, 2008

Cervical cancer is the number one leading cause of cancer deaths among women in developing countries. However, Merck & Co. developed Gardasil, a vaccine, to help prevent certain types of human papillomavirus (HPV). Studies show that over 80% of women younger than age 50 have been exposed to at least one strain of HPV. In preventing HPV types 16, 18, 6, and 11, it is believed that over 70% of the cases of cervical cancer may be prevented.

Gardasil is designed to prevent the first infection of HPV, so therefore should be given to girls before they become sexually active. For women who have already been sexually active, the vaccine can still protect them from other types of HPV infections even if they are already infected with one of the four main types.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Centers for Disease Control (CDC) have said that they believe the Gardasil vaccination is safe and the FDA approved it for use in 2006. It has been clinically tested on over 11,000 females between the ages of 9 and 26. It also does not contain mercury, thiomersal, or live or dead particles. The known side effects of the Gardasil vaccination are fainting and soreness in the area of the injection.

However, the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP) believes that Gardasil can have much more devastating side effects including blood clots, paralysis, seizures, Bells palsy, and Guillian-Barre syndrome. More than 3,400 complaints have been reported to the VICP of patients having taken the Gardasil vaccination then suffering these side effects. There have also been 20 deaths that are under investigation. One study shows that almost 50% of the pregnant women who had the Gardasil vaccination experienced fetal abnormalities including spontaneous abortion. The National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC) doesn’t feel that Merck’s clinical trials proved that Gardasil was safe for use by young girls.

The FDA and CDC admitted that 9,749 reports of those taking Gardasil have been filed with the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System. But, there have been 16 million doses given as of the end of June 2008. The FDA and CDC said that given that amount, “by chance alone some serious adverse effects and deaths” will occur, but have nothing to do with the Gardasil vaccination.

It is the responsibility of drug manufacturers to ensure your safety when taking a medication or receiving a vaccination. If you are harmed after using a product, you may have grounds for legal action against the manufacturer. If you have taken the Gardasil vaccination and suffered any of the severe side effects listed above, contact a lawyer about your legal rights as a consumer.

Possible Quinine Lawsuits

Wednesday, September 24th, 2008

Quinine is a natural plant substance found in South America that has been used for many different medial reasons for hundreds of years. It has been used to reduce fever and treat malaria, but it is also used as a pain killer and anti-inflammatory medication. Many people have used it to treat nighttime leg cramps.

Since 1969, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has received 665 reports of adverse side effects by patients who were using quinine. Side effects of quinine use included anemia, abnormal blood clotting or bleeding, irregular heartbeats, severe headaches, seizures, nausea, rash, visual disturbances, and liver damage. Ninety three of those reports turned into the FDA were of a patient’s death while using quinine. The FDA banned the sale of over-the-counter quinine used to prevent leg cramps in 1994 as a result of those reports.

Doctors could still write quinine prescriptions for patients with leg cramps until late 1995. At that point, the FDA said that doctors could no longer prescribe it for leg cramps. The only brand of quinine approved by the FDA to be sold on the market is Qualaquin, which is used to treat malaria. Because the FDA doesn’t see leg cramps as life threatening like malaria can be, the benefits of using quinine no longer outweigh the risks.

However, some patients who liked benefits of quinine for leg cramp treatment and continued to use it. While the FDA ordered manufacturers to stop producing the unapproved drugs as recently as December 2006, many brands were still illegally available for sale on the market.

If you or someone you know has suffered adverse side effects as a result of taking quinine, you may have a claim against the manufacturers. Consult a lawyer that is familiar with the FDA findings to see what legal rights you have as a consumer. But, before you contact a lawyer, it is recommended that you put together a timeline of your quinine use, who you purchase it from, what symptoms you suffered, other medications you were taking at the same time, and when you stopped using quinine.

Morgan Keegan (RMK) Lawsuit

Monday, September 22nd, 2008

Morgan Keegan is an investment banking and securities firm which is part of the larger Regions Financial Corporation. Regions serves the southern part of the United States with offices in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia.

Morgan Keegan customers who invested in certain types of Regions Morgan Keegan funds may be able to join a class action lawsuit. During 2007, customers who purchased:

  • Regions Morgan Keegan Select High Income
  • Regions Morgan Keegan High Income Fund-C
  • Regions Morgan Keegan High Income Fund-A
  • Regions Morgan Keegan High Income Fund-I
  • Regions Morgan Keegan Strategic Income Fund
  • Regions Morgan Keegan Intermediate Bond Fund-C
  • Regions Morgan Keegan Intermediate Bond Fund-A
  • Regions Morgan Keegan Intermediate Bond Fund-I
  • Regions Morgan Keegan Multi-Sector High Income
  • Regions Morgan Keegan Advantage Income

and lost money as a result of the investment may want to look into legal action against Morgan Keegan. These funds experienced losses of between 50% and 67% during 2007 when the subprime mortgage market dropped. All in all, investors lost over $1 billion dollars. Similar high-yield bond funds during the same time frame did not lose as much as these RMK funds. The lawsuit is open to investors who purchased funds from Morgan Keegan between December 2004 and October 2007.

The class action lawsuit contends that these investors lost money due to the mismanagement and fraudulent misrepresentations by some mutual fund managers. It is believed that these customers were not notified that these new investments had not been thoroughly tested and were traded in markets in which there were fewer buyers. This meant a higher risk of considerable losses for these investors – much higher than they agreed to when they agreed to purchase the RMK funds. It is believed that the fund managers gave the impression that these funds were relatively safe and stable, failing to disclose the risky aspect of investing in them. The lawsuit contends that had these investors been given the entire picture about the funds, many would not have invested in them and therefore not lost money.

To recoup loses from these funds, you may want to speak to a lawyer to see if you are eligible for this class action lawsuit. Being a part of the class action lawsuit means that you will not have to pay any legal fees, including that of the lawyers involved. Investors who lost more than $10,000 may wish to forgo the class action lawsuit and file their own individual case against the company; however, you will be responsible for paying your own legal expenses.

Digitek Lawsuits

Sunday, September 21st, 2008

Digitek, a brand name of the drug Digoxin, is a medication used to treat many different types of heart conditions including atrial fibrillation, atrial flutter, and heart failure that cannot be controlled by other medication. It works to strengthen the force of the heartbeat by adding more calcium to the cells of the heart. It helps control irregular heartbeats by slowing the number of electrical impulses through the AV node.

However, Digitek tablets were recently recalled due to the fact that it is believed that they may contain as much as twice the approved dosage of digoxin. Digitek is manufactured by Actavis Totowa and distributed by Mylan Pharmaceuticals, Inc.

It is believed that this double dose can cause digitalis toxicity, which means a patient may suffer from nausea, vomiting, low blood pressure, cardiac instability, loss of appetite, bradycardia (slow heart rate), visual changes, palpitations, dizziness, cold sweats, difficulty breathing when lying down, and possibly death.

On April 25, 2008, Actavis Totowa issued a voluntary recall of Digitek tablets distributed between March 2006 and April 2008 saying there was a possibility that “tablets with double the appropriate thickness may have been commercially released.” This occurred after the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) began receiving reports of illness of patients having taken Digitek. Even Actavis admitted to getting 11 reports of patients suffering adverse side effects due to the double dosage. It is not known what caused the double dosage of the tablets or exactly how many tainted tablets had been distributed.

Bobbie and Robert Dyal were the first to file a federal Digitek lawsuit against Actavis Totowa. Bobbie was taking Digitek and in the lawsuit, claims to have suffered permanent heart damage from the defective tablets. On March 21, she was flown to Trinity Hospital suffering from the effects of digitalis toxicity. In the two months she spent at the hospital, she had to have a pacemaker installed. In the lawsuit, the Dyals believe that Actavis was negligent in not heeding FDA warnings that were issued in July and August of 2006 and February 2007, stating that the Digitek Bobbie received was not “the identity, strength, quality and purity they purport to possess.” Since that first lawsuit, a class action lawsuit has been file in the U.S. District Court in New Jersey.

If you or someone you know took Digitek between March 2006 and April 2008 and suffered serious side effects, you should contact your doctor for medical advice.

Mesothelioma and Asbestos Exposure

Wednesday, September 10th, 2008

Mesothelioma is a form of cancer. The way you contract this form of cancer is almost always because of exposure to asbestos. It is most commonly found in the lungs, but can also be found in the abdomen, the pericardium (heart) or the tunica vaginalis. In 1960 research was published that established the link between asbestos exposure and Mesothelioma.

As mentioned before, the way most people contract Mesothelioma is due to exposure to asbestos; specifically by working in a job where they inhaled asbestos. Asbestos mines are probably the first industry you might think of, but many different manufacturing processes utilize asbestos. They include: cement, roof shingles, flooring products, insulation, textiles, and brake linings. Other industries where you might find asbestos exposure include chemical plants, power plants, and oil refineries.

There is also some evidence of second hand exposure to asbestos. In other words, the family members of people who work in industries where they have exposure to asbestos can bring home the asbestos on their clothing and thus their family members might inhale it as well.

The signs and/or symptoms of Mesothelioma often don’t appear until more than 20 to 50 years after initial exposure. Often times the cancer is not diagnosed until it is in a very advanced state. There about 2000 new cases of Mesothelioma diagnosed in the United States each year. While this sounds like a large number, it is still considered rare.

Steve McQueen, an actor, died from Mesothelioma in 1980. There is some speculation as to how and when he contracted this form of cancer. Some think he was exposed while serving in the Marines, while other think he might have been exposed while wearing a protective racing suit.

The first lawsuit against an asbestos manufacturer was filed in 1960. During the 1970’s the number of lawsuits filed increased, and it is estimated that perhaps a half a million lawsuits have been filed. In 2005 California passed legislation that would expedite a Mesothelioma lawsuit if the plaintiff’s cancer was end stage.

Fannie Mae Class Action Lawsuit

Wednesday, September 10th, 2008

On September 8, 2008 a lawsuit was filed in the Southern District of New York Court on behalf of investors who held publically traded securities of Fannie Mae between November 16, 2007 and September 5, 2008. This lawsuit is seeking class action status.

Fannie Mae is a nickname for the Federal National Mortgage Association, or the FNMA. Fannie Mae is a private corporation that buys home mortgages, becoming a source of funds for mortgage lenders. The organization was created by Congress but is a private, shareholder owned company. The federal government has stepped in to take over the company in order to prevent it from failing. Together with Freddie Mac Fannie Mae guarantees almost half of the United States’ mortgage debt.

The lawsuit, filed by the Coughlin Stoia law firm, seeks damages, attorneys’ fees, and equitable or injunctive relief for those people who purchased shares between the dates mentioned above. The lawsuit was filed against four current and/or former executives of the company. The four individuals named in the lawsuit are: Stephen Ashley, chairman of Fannie Mae’s board; Daniel Mudd, president and CEO; Stephen Swad, former CFO; and Robert Levin, former executive vice president and chief business officer.

A class action lawsuit is a suit that is filed by one or more parties on behalf of a group (or class) of people all having the same grievance.

The deadline for joining the class action lawsuit is November 7, 2008.

Byetta Lawsuit

Thursday, September 4th, 2008

Byetta is a prescription drug from Amylin Pharmaceuticals, Inc. It is an injectible drug used to treat Type 2 diabetes and was approved for use by the FDA in 2005. This drug has been potentially linked to a significant side effect known as acute hemorrhagic or necrotizing pancreatitis. Pancreatitis is an inflammation of the pancreas that can cause problems such as infection, bleeding, tissue damage and even in some cases death.

In October 2007 the FDA warned health care providers of the risk of acute hemorrhagic or necrotizing pancreatitis with the use of Byetta.

On August 18, 2008 the FDA announced that it was working with the makers of the diabetes drug Byetta (Amylin Pharmaceuticals) to add a stronger and more prominent warning on the packaging of this prescription drug about the danger of pancreatitis.

Most recently a lawsuit was filed in California in San Diego Superior Court.