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Wyeth Loses Another Prempro Case

Feb 20, 2007 | An Ohio woman was awarded a $3 million verdict by a jury in Pennsylvania state court, which held that her use of Wyeth’s menopause drug, Prempro, led to her breast cancer. It was the second verdict against Wyeth and Prempro in the past month, and roughly 5,000 individual suits are still pending against the company and its hormone replacement drugs Prempro and Premarin.

Jennie Nelson was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2001, six years after she began taking Prempro. She’d won a $1.5 million verdict last fall in the case, but a judge declared a mistrial over concerns of juror misconduct. The new verdict doubled her award, offering $2.4 million in damages to her, plus an additional $600,000 to her husband. The jury found that Wyeth’s product warnings were inadequate and vague and that her use of the hormone replacement therapy (HRT) had a direct effect on her development of invasive breast cancer.

“We are very grateful to the members of the jury who carefully considered the facts in Mrs. Nelson’s case,” said plaintiff attorney Tobias Millrood. “We also find it especially rewarding that two separate juries have believed in the merits of the case and found for Mrs. Nelson. Both times this case has been heard on terms established by Wyeth, and still the juries have clearly found that Prempro causes breast cancer.”

Last month, the pharmaceutical giant was ordered by another Pennsylvania state jury to pay $1.5 million in compensatory damages to an Arkansas woman, Mary Daniel, and her husband who held Prempro responsible for the woman’s breast cancer. In that case, the jury cited conduct by Wyeth that was “malicious, wanton, willful, or oppressive, or showed reckless indifference.” Her attorneys argued that Wyeth had known for decades about Prempro’s breast-cancer risk factor in postmenopausal women, but acted negligently by failing to provide adequate warnings or conduct sufficient testing.

In 2002, a Women’s Health Initiative study sponsored by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) found that the use of an estrogen-progestin combination (like Prempro) led to a 41 percent increase in strokes, a 29 percent increase in heart attacks, a doubling of rates of blood clots, a 22 percent increase in total cardiovascular disease, and a 26 percent increase in breast cancer. Wyeth is still allowed to sell the drugs, and sales of its HRTs topped $1 billion last year.

Added Millrood, “The evidence presented at trial revealed that Wyeth has known for decades that postmenopausal hormone therapy causes breast cancer but that Wyeth chose to avoid testing this dangerous hormone combination and delayed stronger warnings for fear of flagging sales. We hope that this verdict sends a clear message to Wyeth

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