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After months of charges from the Washington, DC-based National Women’s Healthcare Network (NWHN), a consumer group, Matria Healthcare isn’t going to sit idly by any longer.
Matria recently filed suit against NWHN in a U.S. District Court in an effort to stop the group’s claims that Matria’s use of home-based subcutaneous terbutaline pumps is unsafe (See Home Infusion Therapy Management, November 1996, p. 129.)
"We’ve been served with the suit," says executive director Cindy Pearson, executive director of NWHN. "We are being defended by volunteer lawyers with the American Civil Liberties Union, and we’re working on our response."
Donald R. Millard, Matria’s chief financial officer, says his company’s reason behind the lawsuit is simple.
"We want to know the basis on which they’re making their claims" that the in-home use of terbutaline is unsafe, he says.
Millard says that the NWHN’s claims that two deaths could be related to the in-home use of terbutaline caused confusion in the marketplace and that such claims are untrue.
"We’ve treated tens of thousands of patients without any problems," he says. "And terbutaline in the home is administered in lower levels than it is in the hospital."
He adds that Matria had to increase its selling and education efforts as a result of NWHN claims. However, the suit does not seek monetary damages.
Although Matria and NWHN have been at odds for quite some time over terbutaline’s in-home safety, it appears the two sides have yet to approach one another.
"Matria has never responded directly to us," says Pearson. "But from what they have said to the press, our understanding is that (1) they’re not at fault because they just supply what doctors prescribe, and (2) it has been shown to be both safe and effective."
However, Matria claims it has tried to create a dialogue with NWHN but has been rejected in its efforts, which led to the lawsuit.
"We got to a point where we couldn’t get any information from them why they were taking this position, so we had exhausted all other options," says Millard.
NWHN had filed a petition with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration claiming that Matria was promoting the use of something that had never been shown to be "both safe and effective."
"We were hoping we would get a response from the FDA by now, but all they’ve told us is that they’re still looking at it," notes Pearson.