Pfizer lawsuit: Pet owners file complaint over Rimadyl, animal drug they say killed their dog
Although Sophie was six years old, the golden retriever was still a puppy in the eyes of her owners, Christopher Cooper and Shelley Smith. But then, after undergoing knee surgery, she became ill and stayed that way for more than a month before dying as her owners raced to the animal hospital. Cooper and Smith blame a drug called Rimadyl for this trauma -- and they've filed suit against Pfizer, the drug giant that makes it.
"I know we're going up against Goliath," Cooper says. "But we have to try."
The lawsuit, filed under the auspices of attorney Jennifer Edwards and What Ridge's Animal Law Center, tells the tale. On May 26, 2009, Sophie was referred to Aspen Meadow Veterinary Specialists in regard to a ruptured cranial cruciate ligament. After her lab work came back normal, surgery took place on June 5, and everything seemed to go well. She was sent home, and Cooper and Smith were given three forms of medication -- including Rimadyl, an anti-inflammatory that's frequently used to treat arthritis -- to help her through the post-operative period.
Side effects were uncommon, the pair say they were told. But just over a week later, Sophie stopped eating and began vomiting overnight. After consulting with Aspen Meadow on June 16, they stopped giving her the prescribed medication -- but this didn't prove to be a miracle cure. Subsequent tests reportedly showed signs of Rimadyl toxicity, and while vets said most dogs recover from this problem in three to seven days, she remained hospitalized for just shy of two weeks amid signs that her liver was failing.
Shelley Smith with Sophie.
Sophie returned home on June 30, but her symptoms persisted, and on July 9, she was admitted to Colorado State University Veterinary Teaching Hospital for a biopsy. More back-and-forth followed, with Sophie returning to CSU for emergency testing on July 25. The next day, Cooper and Smith were told Sophie's condition was grim -- but before they could reach the hospital, they received word that she had died.
Throughout her illness, the couple did research on Rimadyl, and Cooper says they learned that "this drug is problematic, especially in retriever breeds -- and had I known that information prior to surgery, I probably wouldn't have allowed them to give her the drug. She was in the prime of her life, and she really didn't need it. And if we had given her the drug and we'd known what it could do, we would have rushed her to the hospital as soon as she became symptomatic. But we lost three days because we didn't know."