David Egilman, Doctor Who Took On Drug Companies, Dies at 71

Dr. David Egilman, a physician and expert witness who, over a 35-year span, gave testimony in some 600 trials involving corporate malfeasance, resulting in billions of dollars in awards for victims and their survivors, died on April 2 at his home in Foxborough, Mass. He was 71.

The cause was cardiac arrest, his son Alex said.

Many medical experts make a side business in court, offering their informed opinions on the witness stand and helping to validate or undermine plaintiffs’ claims. But few make it a career-long passion in the way Dr. Egilman did. He taught at Brown University and ran a private practice but spent most of his time consulting and testifying in as many as 15 cases a year.

He did more than just opine from the stand. A dogged researcher, he dug up incriminating emails and memos showing that, in many cases, drug companies knew the risks involved with putting a new medication on the market but went ahead anyway.

He provided critical testimony in a class-action lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson, claiming that it had failed to reveal the health risks involved presented by Johnson’s baby powder and other products containing talc. After years of litigation, the company settled for $8.9 billion in 2023.

Dr. Egilman testifying in a trial in Joplin, Mo., in 2004. He helped attorneys strategize for trial and coached them on how to explain complicated medical topics to juries.Credit…Pool photo by T. Rob Brown

Dr. Egilman’s work as an expert witness rubbed some people the wrong way, especially defense lawyers and pharmaceutical company executives, who argued that he was too dogmatic to provide objective analysis. But Dr. Egilman saw things differently.

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