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Wednesday, 15 August, 2001, 16:53 GMT 17:53 UK
Bayer sued over danger drug
Bayer's Baycol/Lipobay anti-cholesterol drug
US lawyers are hoping to prepare a class-action lawsuit
Shares in troubled German chemical and pharmaceutical firm Bayer fell by 4%, amid fears that it could be sued by users of its withdrawn anti-cholesterol drug Baycol/Lipobay.

The firm admitted earlier this week that Baycol could be linked to 52 deaths from fatal muscle weakness and severe rhabdomyolysis, a condition that can lead to kidney and other organ failure.

On Wednesday, it emerged that the family of an Oklahoma man, who had died of kidney failure, was suing the firm.

Bayer chief executive Manfred Schneider
Bayer chief Manfred Schneider may have to sell the drugs business

And North Carolina lawyer David Duffus told a German magazine that as many as 200 people may have died from Baycol's side effects, laying the ground for a class-action group lawsuit.

According to Mr Duffus, Bayer's assets in the US could be confiscated if a court finds in the plaintiffs' favour.

A Florida woman, who claims to have suffered from muscle degeneration and chronic fatigue, has also filed a civil suit.

Bad timing

The news about Baycol, which was previously one of the firm's top-selling products, has battered Bayer's fortunes at a time when the firm was already suffering the effects of the global slowdown.

Bayer's shares fell by 16% last Wednesday alone, after the firm said the Baycol withdrawal would knock up to 650m euros (408m; $581m) off its 2001 profits - over and above an earlier profit warning.

Bayer's headquarters in Leverkusen, Germany
Bayer has been hit by the global slowdown

The firm has taken dramatic steps to turn its business around, including the shedding of 4,000 jobs.

Some have speculated that Bayer could be forced to sell its pharmaceutical business, which is in any case thought to be too small to compete in a rapidly globalising drugs market.

Swiss pharmaceutical firm Roche, which reported strong second-quarter results on Wednesday, has been tipped as a possible buyer for Bayer's drugs arm.

See also:

13 Aug 01 | Business
Bayer drug linked to more deaths
10 Aug 01 | Business
Bayer to cut more than 4,000 jobs
09 Aug 01 | Business
Bayer confirms profits slump
08 Aug 01 | Business
Bayer shares plunge
27 Jun 01 | Business
Bayer warns on 2001 profits
22 Jun 01 | Business
Drug giant warns of lower profits
21 Jun 01 | Business
BASF shuts plants
21 Nov 00 | Business
Drugs - a high-risk business
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