(NaturalNews) The U.S. Supreme Court dealt a blow to Big Pharma Bayer Corp., a division of Bayer AG, last month when justices ruled that a class-action suit against the company by a pair of West Virginia residents could move forward.
Keith Smith and Shirley Sperlazza are suing the company over its now-withdraw cholesterol drug Baycol. The justices unanimously overturned a lower federal court decision that said they were bound by an earlier state court ruling regarding the granting of class-action status to the case.
The drug, which was pulled from the market by Bayer Corp. voluntarily in August 2001, belonged to a family of statins and was prescribed to lower cholesterol.
Baycol reportedly worked by blocking certain enzymes that led to the production of cholesterol, but the drug was pulled after discovering it could cause a fatal muscle toxicity known as rhabdomyolysis, a breakdown of muscle fibers that may also occur in patients taking the drug Zocor.
Reports said the drug, which was on the market from 1997 to 2001, was linked to 31 deaths. In all, Bayer said the company has paid $1.17 billion in claims from users who said they suffered serious side effects from the drug.
According to WebMD.com, one of the causes of rhabdomyolysis is the "use of medications such as corticosteroids or statins, especially when given in high doses..." Baycol was pulled from the market for its link to the disease, and the Food and Drug Administration has just warned that Zocor could be causing the same thing.
Worse, Bayer itself may even have known of the dangers of its drug before it went to market. According to a lawsuit filed by Laurie Simpson, a former Bayer strategic research analyst, the company "allegedly engaged in illegal and deceptive marketing practices by exaggerating Baycol's effectiveness, while downplaying its dangers and concealing important safety information from consumers," one report said.
Simpson says she discovered a lot of information about the dangers of Baycol while employed with the company but was instructed to keep it out of reports about the drug because the company was concerned about future lawsuits.
"The lawsuit also alleges that Bayer provided kickbacks to doctors in order to have them prescribe Baycol to their clients and that the company had false articles written and published in prestigious medical journals to downplay the drug's risks," said the report.
Besides Baycol, Bayer may also wind up in legal hot water over another drug since pulled from the market (in 2007) called Trayslol, a drug used to limit bleeding in cardiac and other surgeries. The report said that drug was pulled after it "was linked to serious side effects and possibly thousands of deaths."