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Tuesday 30 September 2014

Woman alleges Pfizer steroid left her in wheelchair

Published 01/08/2014 | 18:23

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The High Court has cleared the way for a woman who claims she was left with permanent health problems after using a steroid produced by Pfizer to sue the pharmaceutical giant for damages.

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Lorna Savage is also suing doctors who prescribed her the steroid, she took to treat a rash over a two year period in the late 1990's, sold under the trade name deltacortil. She claims she was never warned about the possible side effects of using the steroid.

Ms Savage, (43) from Cobh in Co Cork claims she developed a serious medical condition, known as Avascular Necrosis, from using Deltacortrilto treat the rash which was caused by an inflammation of her blood vessels.

Avascular Necrosis kills and causes bone tissue to collapse due to a lack of sufficient blood supply.

As a result of developing the condition she claims she has been left in severe pain and required several operations.

Within four years of being diagnosed with the condition both her knees and her hip have had to be replaced.

She was left wheelchairbound, and is confined to her home. She requires morphine and finds it very difficult to sleep.

The steroid was initially  prescribed to her to 1997 when she was 26 years of age. 

She has brought an High Court action seeking damages for alleged negligence against Pfizer Ireland Ltd and Pfizer, who manufactured and marketed the steroid.

She is also suing the eastate of her former GP Dr Dr Michael Madigan who died in 1999, Consultant Doctor MG Molloy who she claims prescribed her the steroid, and the Southern Health Board, who she also claims was negligent and in breach of its duty of care towards her.

The claims are denied.

In a pretrial motion lawyers for Pfizer asked the High Court to strike out the claim on the grounds there had been an inordinate and inexcusable delay by Ms Savage in prosecuting the action.  Her lawyers opposed the motion, and argued the case should be allowed proceed to trial.

Today at the High Court Mr Justice George Birmingham found in favour of Ms Savage and dismissed the application to strike out her action.  The Judge said that while the delay had been inordinate, it was not inexcusable.

Given the complex nature of the evidence put before the court the said the "balance of justice lay in allowing Ms Savage's case to proceed" to a full hearing before the High Court.  The case will be listed before a judge of the High Court later this year.

Following the ruling solicitor Mr David Harris of Ivor Fitzpatrick and Co on behalf of Ms Savage said his client welcomed the ruling.

The court heard that in In 1997 Ms Savage was diagnosed with vasculitis, a condition which damages blood vessels.   In June 1997 she was prescribed a steroid called prednisolone, by Dr Madigan and Cork University Hospital based Dr Molloy who she says were treating her for vasculitis- the condition that caused the rash.

The steroid is manufactured and marketed by the Pfizer defendants under the trade name deltacortil. Ms Savage claims that between June 1997 and late 1999 took the steroid on a daily basis in varying amounts. 

In her action she claims the Pfizer defendants failed to provide any proper or adequate warning on its packaging or in literature accompanying the steroid that continued use could result in  Asvascular Nercrosis.

She also claims the Pfizer defendants failed to provide her with any warning about the side effects of continued use of the steroid and that it failed to warn her not to use alcohol when taking the steroid.

She claims the two doctors were negligent due to their alleged failure to to advise her that the continued use of the steroid was likely to result in her developing Asvascular Nercrosis. She also claims they failed to investigate her symptoms or suspect she was developing that condition.

She further claims the Southern Health Board were negligent in its care of her. 

All the defendants deny the claims.

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