Dr. David Egilman, a Top Expert Witness in Harmful-Drug Cases, Dies at 70

Dr. David Egilman, a prominent medical expert who testified in lawsuits involving harmful drugs and products for decades, died on Jan. 6 at his home in Providence, R.I. He was 70.

The New York Times reported that Dr. Egilman had battled cancer for two years and succumbed to complications from a fall.

Dr. Egilman was a passionate and relentless advocate for plaintiffs in lawsuits alleging that pharmaceutical companies had not disclosed risks associated with their products. He handled dozens of cases concerning Yaz, Paxil, Zoloft, and other medications, as well as lawsuits over talc in Johnson & Johnson products and radiation exposure. He also consulted on lawsuits against Merck & Co. over its Gardasil vaccine for HPV.

Dr. Egilman was renowned for his ability to uncover valuable information about companies' knowledge of risks that they had failed to disclose or mislead consumers about. He frequently accused drug companies of ghostwriting studies to mask the adverse effects of their products.

He was instrumental in leaking a 1950 memo from the Atomic Energy Commission about government radiation tests on humans, despite knowing about the serious health risks involved. In 1996, the government apologized for these tests.

Dr. Egilman also consulted on lawsuits related to the Purdue Pharma opioid scandal.

He was well-known for his passion for exposing harmful products, saying, "As a doctor, I can treat one cancer patient at a time, but by being here, I have the potential to save millions."

However, his aggressive approach and belief that companies systematically hid adverse effects of their products often led to accusations of bias and lack of objectivity. Pharmaceutical companies often criticized his testimony, but he dismissed such criticism, believing that his work was essential in protecting people from harmful products.

Dr. Egilman paid a settlement to Eli Lilly in 2007 after leaking confidential documents to a lawyer who then provided them to The New York Times for a story about the antipsychotic drug Zyprexa. Despite this settlement, the Justice Department later charged Eli Lilly with criminal violations for promoting Zyprexa for off-label uses, for which they paid $515 million in 2009.

Dr. Egilman was also critical of lawyers, judges, and juries he believed were inadequate or too lenient on pharmaceutical companies.

Lawyers who worked with Dr. Egilman spoke highly of him, acknowledging his groundbreaking work and passion for justice.

Dr. Egilman was born in Boston in 1952 to a Polish Jewish family. His father had survived the Holocaust, including imprisonment in Buchenwald, where his wife and two other children were killed. Growing up, Dr. Egilman was inspired by his father's experiences and committed to preventing any repetition of the horrors of Nazi medical experimentation.

He attended Brown University, receiving a bachelor's degree in molecular biology in 1974 and a medical degree in 1978. He later earned a master's in public health from Harvard.

Dr. Egilman started a clinic in Cincinnati for the US Public Health Service, where he worked with patients who had developed medical conditions due to unsafe work environments, an experience that deeply influenced his commitment to justice.

He subsequently returned to Massachusetts to open a private practice and teach at Brown University while also working on lawsuits.

Dr. Egilman is survived by his wife, Helene, and two sons.

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