A $1 billion lawsuit has been filed against Upjohn Co., accusing the drug company of conspiring to conceal what the suit called the dangerous side effects of the sleeping pill Halcion.

Upjohn spokesman Phil Sheldon refused to comment on the lawsuit, except to say Thursday that the drug is "completely safe and very effective" when used as its label indicates.The lawsuit was filed in Dallas state district court on behalf of three Halcion users who committed suicide, another who attempted suicide and a fifth who clubbed his father into a coma.

The suit, filed Dec. 22, was extraordinary not only because of the amount of damages sought, but because it alleges that the drugmaker conspired with researchers to dupe the government about Halcion before the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved it.

The plaintiffs allege that Michigan-based Upjohn relied on improperly conducted clinical studies and paid off researchers "to whitewash Halcion."

Halcion remains the most commonly prescribed sleeping pill in the world despite foreign government restrictions and negative publicity that have cut sales in half since 1991, Sheldon said.

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In this country, an estimated 100 lawsuits have been filed seeking compensation for damages allegedly caused as a result of Halcion usage.

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