Darvon, Darvocet Lawsuits Will Make News in 2011

Darvocet and <"http://www.yourlawyer.com/topics/overview/darvon">Darvon lawsuits involving the recalled painkillers painkillers could be one of the big legal and health stories of 2011. At least one national law firm – Parker Waichman Alonso LLP – has reported that it has been inundated with inquiries since the US Food & Drug Administration (FDA) asked the makers of propoxyphene products like Darvon and Darvocet to pull them from the market because of their association with serious and potentially fatal heart rhythm problems.

“The numbers are astronomical. It has the potential to be as big as fen-phen,” Jerrold Parker of national <"http://www.yourlawyer.com/">personal injury law firm, recently told the Daily Record. According to that report, Parker Waichman Alonso has received as many as 1,000 phone inquiries per day since Darvon and Darvocet recall in November.

Parker Waichman Alonso filed one of the first Darvocet lawsuits in December, on behalf of a 31-year-old Queens, New York woman who suffered a near-fatal heart attack shortly after taking Darvocet. In December, the firm also filed a motion with the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation seeking to consolidate all federal Darvon and Darvocet lawsuits in a multidistrict litigation in US District Court for the Eastern District of New York before the Honorable Jack B. Weinstein.

According to the Daily Record, the FDA estimated 10 million prescriptions were written for the medications in 2009 alone, so the potential is there for the propoxyphene-Darvon-Darvocet litigation to be huge.

The FDA acted on propoxyphene after a study conducted by Xanodyne Pharmaceuticals, the maker of Darvon and Darvocet, found it could cause irregular heartbeat. This condition, called QT prolongation, lengthens the time between the Q wave and T waves, which are two of five electrical impulses that measure the regularity of a heartbeat. There are no symptoms of this condition, but it can lead to a potentially lethal rapid heartbeat called ventricular tachycardia.

Propoxyphene is an opiod painkiller that was first sold as Darvon in 1957. Darvocet is a combination drug made with propoxyphene and acetaminophen. According to Public Citizen, despite its widespread use, propoxyphene is not very effective, is toxic at doses not much higher than the recommend dose because a heart-toxic metabolite accumulates in the body, and is somewhat addictive. It has been linked to many thousands of US deaths since 1981, a large proportion of which were likely caused by cardiac toxicity, including the interruption of electrical conduction in the heart, the group said.

Public Citizen has petitioned the FDA twice since 1978 seeking the removal of Propoxyphene products like Darvon and Darvocet from the market. Propoxyphene bans were announced in the United Kingdom almost six years ago, and in Europe, almost 1½ years ago. In January 2009, an FDA advisory panel even recommended that propoxyphene be banned in the US, but the FDA waited to act.

According to Public Citizen, at least 1,000 to 2,000 or more people in the US have died from using propoxyphene since the UK ban was announced. The best forensic data, the kind relied upon in those countries for the UK and European bans, come from Florida where, because of routine drug testing required by the state medical examiner as part of many autopsies, deaths are categorized as being “caused” by certain drugs if the levels found are to be above a certain level. From 2005 through 2009, in Florida alone, 395 deaths were “caused” by propoxyphene.

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