Oct. 13, 2004

Bayer Is Told by Jury to Pay $400,000 in Alka-Seltzer Plus Case

A Texas jury awarded $400,000 to a man who claims he had a stroke after taking Bayer AG's Alka-Seltzer Plus cold medicine.

A state court jury in El Paso, Texas found that Bayer made a defective and dangerous product when a safer alternative was available, said Peter Kraus, the man's lawyer. An Alka-Seltzer Plus ingredient, PPA, or phenlypropanolamine, is a decongestant that Kraus said is associated with increased risks of strokes. Bayer says the product is safe.

The jury didn't find Bayer liable for negligence, which would have entitled his client to punitive damages, Kraus said. Today's case is the first of 1,150 PPA claims against Bayer to go to trial, Kraus and a lawyer for Bayer said. In other cases, Novartis AG won a trial in January involving PPA and Dexatrim-maker Chattem Inc. settled PPA claims for $76 million.

``Bayer has tried to take a scorched earth policy and say there's no evidence PPA causes a stroke,'' Kraus said. ``This is a substantial liability for them and it bodes very poorly.'' The U.S. Food and Drug Administration in November 2000 asked companies using PPA in their cold products to voluntarily take the products off the market because of possible health risks.

Bayer's PPA product was safe and the company complied with the FDA's request, said Terry Tottenham, Bayer's national counsel in PPA cases.
Kraus's client, Miguel Valverde, 33, sued Bayer in 2002, accusing the company of negligence and making a defective product. Valverde took Alka-Seltzer Plus in 1997 for three days to treat a cold and then had a stroke, Kraus said. Valverde had an aneurysm and was asymptomatic until he took the Bayer product, he said. The case is Valverde v. Bayer AG, 2002-929, El Paso County Court, El Paso Texas. (Bloomberg)