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Chrissie Cole
Chrissie Cole
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Product Liability Suits Surrounding Ortho Evra

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Former vice president of two Johnson & Johnson subsidiaries claims he was fired for seeking recalls of many faulty products, including the Ortho Evra birth control patch – subject of at least 1,000 product liability suits.

Joel S. Lippmann, 52, of Warren, started working for J&J in 1990 and worked his way up to vice president of clinical trials for Ortho-McNeil Pharmaceutical Inc., which makes women’s health products and contraceptives. He was worldwide vice president of medical affairs and chief medical officer at J&J’s Ethicon Inc.

The suit alleges Lippman’s problems began when he complained about safety data on a hormonal menopausal product called Ortho-Prefest and about serious health risks over the Ortho Evra patch, “which releases dangerous high levels of estrogen into patients.” In September, the Food and Drug Administration required J&J to add a warning to the package insert of Ortho Evra stating the risk of dangerous blood clots in the legs and lungs may be higher for women on the patch.

It is unknown if Ortho-Prefest was ever sold, J&J ignored Lippman’s worries about Ortho Evra and launched the product, then transferring Lippman to Ethicon, according to the lawsuit. After joining Ethicon in 2000, Lippman complained data research indicated a product about to be launched could potentially block arteries; he was then told that if he kept opposing the launch “it could affect his bonus and employment within the company.”

As of October 1, J&J reported 1,000 claimant that have filed lawsuits or made claims alleging Ortho Evra caused injuries.

Some women using Ortho Evra, including women in their 20s, have died of blood clots. Attorneys who specialize in medical product liability suits are seeking more plaintiffs through Internet sites, so more suits are likely.

Attorney Ellen Relkin, who is on committees of plaintiffs lawyers overseeing both federal Ortho Evra lawsuits and those filed in New Jersey, said news of Lippman’s lawsuit will have some impact on the number of product liability suits, particularly among women who believe Ortho Evra injured them but hadn’t yet sued.