A. H. Robins Co. says it will spend about $5 million to tell women in more than 80 countries that they have four more months to seek damages for injuries allegedly caused by the Dalkon Shield intrauterine contraceptive device.
The drive, which begins Jan. 6, will notify Dalkon Shield users that unless they act by April 30, they will lose their right to file claims against the company. The Richmond pharmaceutical manufacturer says it will conduct a three-week, $3.8 million advertising and public relations program in the United States and Puerto Rico to reach users of the product.
Robins said it also has hired the public relations firm of Burson-Marsteller to conduct a $1 million, month-long public relations campaign to advise those living in other countries.
The advertising and public relations campaign is aimed at women who have used the Dalkon Shield and who have been harmed by the product or may be in the future. Anyone else who claims to have been adversely affected by the device -- particularly a child or husband of a user -- also may file a claim.
The written claims, which must be received by April 30, 1986, can be sent to: Dalkon Shield, P.O. Box 444, Richmond, Va., 23203.
People who file claims by that date will receive a questionnaire that must be returned by Americans by June 30 and by foreigners by July 30.
U.S. District Judge Robert R. Merhige Jr. approved plans for the notification campaign as part of Robins' reorganization under Chapter 11 of the federal bankruptcy code. Robins sought bankruptcy court protection on Aug. 21 after 15,500 Dalkon Shield wearers had filed claims against the company, and Robins and its insurer, Aetna Life & Casualty Co., had paid out $520 million to dispose of 9,500 of the claims.
Starting in January 1971, Robins distributed 2.8 million Dalkon Shields in the United States. The company and other organizations, including the Agency for International Development, distributed 1.7 million more in 79 other countries.
The company halted U.S. sales in June 1974 after hundreds of Dalkon Shield wearers became pregnant and suffered miscarriages. Robins continued to sell the device abroad for up to nine months afterward. The miscarriages were followed by a much larger wave of pelvic infections in nonpregnant women, many of whom suffered loss or impairment of the ability to bear children.
In October 1984, Robins launched a $4 million advertising campaign to urge women still wearing the devices to have them removed at the company's expense. By the end of March, 4,437 American women had filed claims for Dalkon Shield removals, and new cases were coming in at a rate of more than 100 a week.
Burson-Marsteller Senior Vice President Wayne L. Pines said Dalkon Shield wearers have filed "fewer than 50" lawsuits in foreign courts. A number of foreign users have sued Robins in U.S. courts.