LAWSUIT OVER VETERINARY DRUG RIMADYL®
Jean Townsend of Johns Island, South Carolina announced today that a settlement has been
reached with Pfizer, Inc. in what appears to be the first lawsuit of its
kind in this country - a lawsuit over injuries that led to the death of
Ms. Townsend's chocolate lab, George. Ms. Townsend originally brought
the lawsuit against Pfizer in October of 1999, two years after
the tragic death of George. The lawsuit alleged that the FDA approved drug
Rimadyl®, which was the subject of an
unprecedented multi-million dollar advertising campaign, was marketed
without a complete understanding of the serious side-effects that could
result from the drug. Ms. Townsend also alleged that neither she nor her
vet were adequately warned of the potential side-effects. After
administering the drug for only 14 days, George developed severe
internal bleeding and ultimately liver failure. George was euthanized on
October 13, 1997. In reaching the settlement, Pfizer has admitted no
"It was truly horrible," said Townsend of the experience. "But the most
troubling aspect of the ordeal was when I later learned that similar
side-effects had been reported to Pfizer and the FDA months before I
first gave the drug to my dog. Yet even after my pet became sick, I
continued to give him the pills because they were supposed to make him
feel better. I had no idea that he was suffering from the side-effects
of Rimadyl®. It is devastating to live with the realization that I gave
my beloved pet medicine to help him when, in fact, it was killing him."
After reporting George's death to Pfizer, Ms. Townsend was offered a
$249.33 settlement, but the offer came with the condition that the
settlement remain confidential. Ms. Townsend refused.
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In the months following George's death, Ms. Townsend began researching
this drug on the internet and soon discovered dozens of other pet owners
who had similar experiences with Rimadyl®. Fueled by the growing number
of people whose dogs had become sick or died after taking the drug, Ms.
Townsend, along with other concerned pet owners, started a campaign to
raise awareness of the potential for serious side-effects with this and
other veterinary medicines. As part of that campaign, Ms. Townsend and
others met with FDA officials as well as Pfizer veterinarians, urging
them to step-up efforts to more thoroughly inform pet owners of the
potential for serious side- effects with veterinary medicines.
Unsatisfied with the response of the FDA and Pfizer, Ms. Townsend turned
to the legal system and filed a class-action lawsuit. In her suit, Ms.
Townsend sought reimbursement of the $734.00 in veterinary expenses she
had incurred trying to save George, as well as establishing a class
action on behalf of the hundreds of other dog owners whose pets had
become ill or died.
In the meantime, reports of adverse reactions to Rimadyl® continued to
rise, and in 1998, Rimadyl® accounted for almost 39% of all Adverse Drug
Experience Reports received by the FDA. The reports were so numerous
that in December of 1999, the FDA took the extraordinary step of issuing
a public statement on the drug.
Within months of Ms. Townsend's suit and the "Update on Rimadyl®" issued
by the FDA, Pfizer announced significant changes in packaging, and that
it would begin dispensing a Client Information Sheet to be included with
veterinary prescriptions of Rimadyl®. The Client Information Sheet,
modeled after similar drug information sheets included with many human
drugs, was to provide pet owners with easily understandable information
about the potential side-effects and what to do if side-effects occur.
Ms. Townsend reports that as part of the settlement, Pfizer made cash
offers to over 300 other dog owners across the country to settle claims
for death or injury to the dog, veterinary expenses, property damage,
emotional distress and punitive damages. These individual offers
averaged over $1000.00 per animal and did not include a confidentiality
Speaking about the lawsuit and the settlement, Ms. Townsend said, "I am
pleased that through this suit, hundreds of other pet owners will be
reimbursed for veterinary expenses and the loss of their pets. Of
course, no amount of money would ever replace the loss of my friend
George, and the loss of so many other beloved companions." But to Ms.
Townsend, (who donated her settlement proceeds to a local veterinarian
to perform surgery on a pet whose owners could not afford the surgery)
the issue is far more than the money paid by Pfizer. It is the growing
public awareness that the medications we give our pets can have serious
side-effects. "We, as pet owners, have the right to know as much about
the good and bad sides of veterinary medicines as we do the medicines we
(Always for George - Always for the Rimadyl Dogs)