Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Norplant Contraceptive Complaints Flood Lawyers' Office

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Norplant Contraceptive Complaints Flood Lawyers' Office

Article excerpt

Two St. Louis personal-injury lawyers ran ads aimed at women who suspect their Norplant birth-control capsules are to blame for a host of medical complaints. The response stunned them.

One of the lawyers, Walter Floyd, said the flood of calls kept eight secretaries busy. The other, Charles Marshall, had to set up a three-person phone bank.

"This will be a big part of my practice for the next several years," Floyd recently predicted.

Marshall ran newspaper ads the week after Christmas in four cities in Missouri - St. Louis, Kansas City, Springfield and Columbia. He also ran television spots. The calls - 1,500 so far - keep coming even after the ad stopped on Jan. 13, he said.

Floyd said he might wind up with thousands of Norplant clients. He believes Norplant complaints will top 100,000 nationwide. That would be about the same number of cases filed by women alleging health problems from breast implants.

Floyd and Marshall aren't alone. At least 100 lawyers across the country have filed suits for women with Norplant complaints.

The legal battle began in 1992 when Harold Dampier, a Houston lawyer, went to court against Wyeth-Ayerst Laboratories, a Philadelphia firm that markets the device in the United States. Dampier now has Norplant clients all over the country.

Wyeth-Ayerst says the product is a target of unfair attacks by lawyers. The company believes the implant is an extremely effective birth-control option, a spokeswoman said.

Norplant's average failure rate is less than 1 percent over five years, the company said. Insertion and removal is usually an in-office surgery under local anesthetic. Most procedures require no stitches and leave little bruising, the company added.

On Jan. 18, Wyeth-Ayerst announced that - absent evidence of negligence or malpractice - it would defend and indemnify health-care providers linked to Norplant suits.

Dampier said the "inherent flaw" in Norplant is the company's assertion that the same dose is proper for all users.

Norplant consists of six matchstick-size contraceptive capsules that are surgically inserted in a fan-shaped pattern beneath the skin of the upper arm. …

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