Your story on Alza Corp. ("IUD Maker Wary About Its Monopoly," April 20) seems to imply that intra-uterine devices are always "risky business" and that A. H. Robins Co.'s Dalkon Shield experience proves the point. The conduct of Robins is in no way exemplary, in my opinion, nor can it serve as a basis for comparison for other pharmaceutical companies.
Briefly, Robins, according to the testimony of (former Robins attorney) Roger Tuttle, knowingly continued to market a product that had been determined to be defective (because of its coiled string) and potentially harmful. Moreover, the company has been accused of destroying records and evidence in their possession that would have sustained such a conclusion in order to protect its own interests.
Most recently, Robins' representatives have been accused by the Justice Department of making payments of more than $7 million, including more than $1.7 million in bonuses to executives of the firm, in violation of the Chapter 11 provisions that the company has sought as protection from the unprecedented volume of claims based on Dalkon Shield injuries. This is not "business as usual"--or, if it is, consumers, and particularly women, are indeed in jeopardy.
Risk factors as well as financial and liability studies should influence any decision concerning a contraceptive, or any other, product. In any case, the Dalkon Shield case is an exceptional one that reflects unacceptable behavior. To transfer culpability from the producer to the product is unwarranted and can only discourage research and development in the field of contraception.
JERI S. GUTHRIE