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Tuesday, 4 September, 2001, 17:07 GMT 18:07 UK
Investigation launched into Bayer
Bayer's headquarters in Leverkusen
Bayer's Baycol remedy is no longer available anywhere
German prosecutors have launched an investigation into whether the chemical firm Bayer was negligent over its withdrawn drug Baycol/Lipobay.

The investigation will examine whether Bayer made a quick enough recall of the product after learning of its damaging side effects.

Bayer has been forced to withdraw its anti-cholesterol drug after it was linked to a number of deaths from muscle weakness.

Shares in Bayer tumbled following the recall, and there has been speculation that the company will now try to sell its drug business.

Investigation

Cologne chief prosecutor Juergen Kapischke said the investigation would concentrate on how quickly Bayer reacted to the news that complications could occur from the drug.

But he said there was no evidence that Bayer was guilty of negligent bodily harm or manslaughter.

"For the time being we do not have sufficient grounds [to suspect] that people have died in Germany from Lipobay," he said.

The firm has admitted the drug could be linked to 52 deaths from fatal muscle weakness and severe rhabdomyolysis, a condition that can lead to kidney and other organ failure.

A number of lawsuits have already been launched against the company, and last month Morgan Stanley said in a worst-case scenario the company could end up paying $5bn to settle all cases.

Shares slump

Bayer's shares have fallen 36% since the start of the year, with most of the decline triggered by the withdrawal of Baycol which was one of its most lucrative drugs.

Last month the company said it was postponing plans to list its shares in New York because of the bad news surrounding the drug.

And speculation has grown that Bayer will now sell its pharmaceuticals business.

Last week the Swiss drugs company Roche denied reports that it was making a $20bn bid.

See also:

16 Aug 01 | Business
Troubled Bayer puts off NY listing
15 Aug 01 | Business
Bayer sued over danger drug
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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