12/11/2012 8:11:58 AM
Harold Asher never thought to ask why his wife’s doctors prescribed Boehringer Ingelheim GmbH’s blood thinner Pradaxa after she recovered from a stroke. Barbara Jean Asher took Pradaxa for three months to cut her risk of suffering another stroke. Then, in June 2011, she was rushed to a hospital with internal bleeding that proved fatal, her family said in a lawsuit blaming Ingelheim, Germany-based Boehringer for her death. Asher, 72, a grandmother from a suburb of Palm Springs, California, died when doctors couldn’t stop the hemorrhaging, the family said. “My generation, you do what your doctor tells you,” Harold Asher, 77, said in a telephone interview on her switch to Pradaxa from an older type of blood thinner. “You don’t ask any questions.” Hundreds of patients and their families are questioning whether Boehringer executives knew Pradaxa posed a deadly risk to some patients when they brought the drug to the U.S. market in October 2010. Unlike older blood thinners, researchers said, Pradaxa has no antidote to reverse its effects, which can lead to so-called bleed-out deaths. Pradaxa has generated more than $1 billion in sales worldwide for closely held Boehringer, the world’s biggest family-owned drugmaker. Researchers have found it more effective at preventing strokes than older competitors, including Bristol- Myers Squibb (BMY) Co.’s Coumadin. Pradaxa has been linked to more than 500 U.S. deaths over a two-year period, and Boehringer now faces more than 150 suits over claims that it sold the drug knowing the medicine could cause bleed-outs among some patients, plaintiffs’ lawyers said.