Press Release, February 19, 2008
Coalition Against BAYER Dangers (Germany)
Baycol: BAYER must pay damages for the first time
Argentinian court sets precedent / Penalties called for
A court in the Argentinian city of Rosario has for the first time awarded damages to a claimant harmed by Baycol. After taking the cholesterol-lowering drug the plaintiff, Carlos Potocnik, suffered from a breakdown of muscle fibres which led to severe kidney damage and permanent disability. In previous court cases Bayer had always managed to prevent sentencing through reaching settlements.
The responsible judge, Sylvia Aramberri, referred to the fact that Bayer knew about the side effects of Baycol, but knowingly put it on the market. The damages of 160 000 Peso (barely 40 000 Euro) consist of compensation, court costs and lost earnings. Potocnik originally demanded 570 000 Peso in damages.
Baycol gives rise to a serious muscle-wasting condition known as rhabdomyolysis that in some cases can lead to life-threatening kidney failure. More than 100 patients died.
Thousands of court cases ended with settlements, in which the company did not officially admit its guilt. An agreement recently put before a Baycol victim from Germany shows how those affected are forced to stay silent. It states: “A settlement was reached with Bayer. It was agreed that silence is to be maintained about the contents and the circumstances. I would not like to give any further comment about the conclusion of the settlement. In case of infringements, a fine as large as the settlement payment is threatened.
The decision in Argentina also sheds light on the responsibility of the management. Hubert Ostendorf from the Coalition Against BAYER-Dangers: “The court has unequivocally established culpable conduct by those responsible in Bayer. Since dozens of avoidable deaths resulted, legal penalties must be applied.
Baycol had by far the highest rate of rhabdomyolysis of any statin, said Dr. Bruce Psaty, a professor of medicine and epidemiology at the University of Washington. Baycol posed 10 times the risk of other statins. Even a BAYER-employee advised “damping down our marketing enthusiasm due to the strongly heightened risk. Those responsible in the company showed that they were not impressed and in the USA and South America brought out Baycol in 0.8 Milligramme doses. In Europe it stayed at the less hazardous dose of 0.3 or 0.4 Milligrammes per tablet.
By the time Bayer removed the drug in 2001, the number of rhabdomyolysis cases was estimated to have reached the tens of thousands. Documents made public by lawyers suing Bayer suggest that Bayer promoted the drug even as a company analysis found that patients on Baycol were falling ill or were dying much more often than patients on similar drugs.