Fat Chance: Diet Mania, Greed, and the Infamous Fen-Phen Swindle

Univ. Pr. of Kentucky. Feb. 2021. 244p. ISBN 9781949669305. $24.95. CRIME
Christman (CEO, Employment Solutions; former community columnist, Lexington Herald-Leader) surveys the fallout from the release of the diet drugs Redux and fenfluramine/phentermine (fen-phen) in the mid-1990s, particularly as it played out in the Kentucky courts. The book unfolds in layers, starting out as an exposé of these fast-tracked drugs, which were ultimately pulled from the market owing to heart abnormalities experienced by patients. Physicians, as well as the drug company American Home Products (AHP), put undue pressure on the FDA to approve the drugs, arguing that the rise of obesity rates necessitated them. Hundreds of patients in Kentucky decided to opt out of a national settlement against AHP, and insteed sought claims in their state. The narrative quickly morphs into a legal thriller as it discusses three attorneys, Bill Gallion, Shirley Cunningham, and Melbourne Mills, who joined forces to pursue litigation on behalf of the claimants. They settled the suit for $200 million in 2001 but came under scrutiny for their handling of the attorneys’ fees, prompting the Kentucky Bar Association (KBA) to launch an investigation. All three lawyers were disbarred or indicted, implicating judges and KBA officials in the process.
VERDICT The rotating cast of unscrupulous lawyers may exhaust readers’ patience; as the author notes early on, there are no heroes in this book. Still, it’s an absorbing tale that’s sure to hold the interest of those interested in books on corporate crime.
Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.



We are currently offering this content for free. Sign up now to activate your personal profile, where you can save articles for future viewing