NEW YORK (CNNfn) - American Home Products agreed Thursday to settle -- for a reported $50 million -- claims by at least 36,000 women who say they suffered severe side effects using the Norplant contraceptive device.
Wyeth-Ayerst Laboratories, a unit of the Madison, N.J.-based drugmaker, said in a statement that the settlement "was purely a business decision." The company did not admit to any wrongdoing in announcing the settlement, which would end five years of lawsuits involving the birth control implant.
The statement did not provide any financial details of the arrangement.
The Dallas Morning News reported Thursday that the settlement would give each woman $1,500 if she filed suit before March 1, for a total of more than $50 million. That figure "is not too bad off" the actual settlement amount, a source familiar with the situation told CNNfn.com.
Lawyers for the majority of the plaintiffs have already endorsed the settlement offer, the newspaper said.
The plaintiffs claimed they suffered health problems including irregular menstrual bleeding, headaches, nausea and depression after using Norplant, a device that is injected into the arm to prevent pregnancy for about five years. The company said most of the plaintiffs experienced routine side effects described in the product's labeling.
In its statement, Wyeth-Ayerst said it would continue to offer the product and said it would defend "any and all new lawsuits aggressively." The company says it has won three jury verdicts, more than 20 summary judgments before trials, and the dismissal of about 14,000 claims.
"Our legal success has come at a steep price because lawsuits are time-consuming, expensive, and have a chilling effect on research," Wyeth-Ayerst President Joseph M. Mahady said. "Now that the courts have found these cases to be without merit, we can turn our attention back to providing contraceptive options for American women."
More than 5 million women worldwide have used the device, including 1 million in the U.S., the company said. Norplant became available in the U.S. in 1991.
American Home Products still faces thousands of lawsuits from people who took the diet drug combination known as "fen phen." Plaintiffs in those cases allege that the company withheld evidence that the medication could cause heart valve damage.
American Home Products (AHP) shares slipped 5/8 to 47-3/16 in early Thursday trading.