I think I was the heaviest kid in school, pretty much from kindergarten to graduation. It didn’t really matter what I did to lose weight, I don’t think I ever dropped more than three or four pounds. I am not going to say that I didn’t like myself or my life, because that’s not true. I was active, healthy, pretty, fun, and fat.
Before graduating from college, I decided I was really going to make a big change and work harder than ever to lose 50 pounds. I was walking to all my classes and walking the track at the stadium every morning and evening. I completely changed what I ate, and gave up soda and sugary drinks, processed foods, and most white foods like potatoes and bread.
After 6 months, I had lost 12 pounds. Not nearly as much I had wanted to lose. My doctor said there was a diet pill that was helping people like me lose weight. He prescribed a drug called Fen-Phen and I started taking it the next day. For the first time in my life, the weight was coming off. I was doing so good, that my younger sister got a prescription and started dieting too.
I don’t think I was on the drug for three months before my doctor told me that my heart valve was damaged and not working right. A few months later, the FDA said that studies had shown that fen-phen use could cause heart valve damage and lung damage and pulled the pill off the market.
As soon as I heard what the FDA did, I was so mad. I just wanted to lose weight and look good and instead I ended up with heart problems. I asked my doctor why on Earth he would put me on a pill that would hurt me, and he said he had no idea the drug could do this. I asked my pharmacist if she knew of anyone else getting heart damage from the pills, and she said yes and that I should talk to my attorney because it seemed lots of people were being hurt by the pill.
My attorney said we should file a lawsuit against the drug maker American Home Products, but I wanted to do more. A mass tort action had been established in Philadelphia and I wanted to be a part of it. I didn’t think that if I filed an individual lawsuit that I would really be heard. I wanted the drug maker to hear my words, see what they had done to me and thousands of others, and I wanted them to pay. I figured if all of us who were hurt by the drug stood together, we would get noticed and maybe really get something done. That together we would be strong enough, loud enough to make a difference.
Well, it worked. Thousands of us filed product liability lawsuits in a mass tort and American Home Products quickly agreed to settle all the cases at once for close to $4 billion. We won. Fen-Phen is gone and won’t hurt anyone ever again and the maker learned a very costly, very important lesson about hurting people.