PORT GIBSON, Miss. (AP) -- A heartburn medication approved for use by adults was promoted by its manufacturer as a children's remedy, say lawyers for 155 plaintiffs who are suing the drug manufacturer for $1.2 billion.
Opening arguments began Thursday in a lawsuit involving the drug Propulsid, manufactured by Janssen and parent company Johnson & Johnson.
More than 30 million prescriptions have been written for Propulsid and it has been linked to 80 deaths. Janssen withdrew the drug from stores in 2000 but it is still in limited use.
Several Propulsid cases around the country are pending, and observers are watching the trial as an important marker.
"If there's a huge jury settlement here, it propels settlements in other cases," said S. Micholle Walker, a lawyer who represents a number of plaintiffs in pending litigation.
Thursday, defense attorney Robert L. Johnson III told jurors the drug was not necessarily linked to health problems suffered by the plaintiffs, each of whom had a pre-existing condition such as cardiovascular disease or high blood pressure.
Johnson said the defense would show that each of the 10 plaintiffs -- who range in age from 3 to 79 -- had pre-existing conditions that could have caused the health problems.
But James Upshaw, the lead plaintiffs' attorney, told the court Janssen held back information about the drug from doctors by not keeping the Physician's Desk Reference up to date. The PDR gives doctors detailed information about prescription drugs.
Claiborne County Circuit Court Judge Lamar Pickard said he expects to try the case within a few days.
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