After 17 years of litigation, Pfizer has reached a preliminary agreement to settle a Norplant contraceptive class action lawsuit for $29.5 million, according toMealey's Drugs & Devices Report. The lawsuit, which was scheduled to go to trial in Louisiana, was brought by 3,500 to 4,000 women.
The move comes a decade after Wyeth, which is now owned by Pfizer, halted sales of the controversial implant, which was hailed as a breakthrough in 1991. Norplant consisted of silicone rods that contained hormones, six of which were implanted beneath the skin of the upper arm for up to five years to prevent pregnancy.
A few years later, however, tens of thousands of women had filed lawsuits claiming Wyeth failed to adequately warn about irregular menstrual bleeding, nausea, headaches and depression. By 1999, Wyeth paid $54 million to settle with 36 women. The Louisiana lawsuits alleged Norplant released too much active ingredient during the first 18 months after insertion, which made the device defective.
In 2002, a federal court dismissed most of the remaining lawsuits for lack of evidence, although the Louisiana lawsuits lingered. For its part, Pfizer denied the allegations and agreed to settle in order "to put to rest all controversy" and avoid the further expense of going to court, a spokesman tells Mealey's.