Earth Times, 26 Mar 2008

Brazil: Bayer Schering loses appeal against fake birth-control award

Brasilia - Ten years after the scandal first erupted, the Brazilian subsidiary of Germany's Bayer Schering pharmaceuticals was ordered to pay more damages for selling ineffective birth control pills that contained flour instead of hormones. According to media reports Tuesday, Brazil's High Court ruled against an appeal filed by the company against a 2007 award by a lower court of 1 million real (576,000 dollars) to women who took the pill and became pregnant.
The case was originally filed in 1998 by Sao Paulo's consumer protection officials, after a number of women became pregnant despite using the Schering pills.
Last year, the company was ordered to pay damages after it had sold the "Microvlar" birth control pills filled only with flour as the real thing. The company said it had only produced the pills in order to test a new packing machine.
Schering has argued that it carried out an efficient recall action and warned consumers at the time. Schering told O Globo television that it was not responsible for distributing the placebos, but rather that they had been stolen and distributed illegally.
Microvlar is used by 1.5 million women in Brazil every month, and is one of the best-selling birth control pills in the South American country.
The Brazilian consumer protection organization Procon said the damage money would be distributed only to women who can prove they used the Microvlar pills and got pregnant.
In separate court actions, a number of women are taking Schering to court for damages. One woman, Marilda Martins, is demanding a one- time payment of 15,000 real as well as a monthly support for her daughter.
"I just want justice, so that this doesn't happen again," said the resident of Porto Alegre in southern Brazil.
Most of the victims were poor women from around Brazil.
In 2002, Schering's Brazilian affiliate was ordered to pay for the upbringing of an "unwanted child," including health insurance, education expenses and monthly payments equivalent to three times Brazil's minimum wage.
The mother however had her request for nearly 450,000 dollars in damages turned down by the court.