Hormone-replacement drugs made by Wyeth and a Pfizer unit caused an Arkansas woman's breast cancer and a jury decided she deserves at least $2.75 million in damages,Bloomberg News reports, noting this is the first loss in federal court for the drugmakers.
Jurors in Little Rock, Arkansas, deliberated 12 hours over two days before finding the combination of Wyeth's Premarin and Pharmacia & Upjohn's Provera menopause drugs helped cause Donna Scroggin's cancer. The former factory worker had a double mastectomy after taking hormone-replacement drugs for about 10 years.
The same jury in Little Rock will hear evidence March 3 on whether the drugmakers should pay punitive damages. Wyeth has lost four of seven trials over its hormone-replacement medicines, Premarin and Prempro, since the cases began going to trial in 2006. The drugmaker, which won two earlier cases brought in federal court in Little Rock and was cleared by a state court jury in Philadelphia, faces about 5,300 lawsuits. Neither company would comment, citing a gag order.
Scroggin, who sued the drugmakers in 2004, was among 6 million women who took the pills to treat menopause symptoms such as hot flashes, night sweats and mood swings. The Women's Health Initiative study, sponsored by the National Institutes of Health, concluded in 2002 that women who took a combination of estrogen and progestin, as found in Prempro, increased their risk of getting invasive breast cancer by 24 percent.
At that point, Prempro sales topped $2 billion and sales quickly declined. Last year, sales reached $1.06 billion. Wall Street, however, seems unconcerned by the verdict. "They have successfully defended themselves so far and I suspect this verdict will be overturned or dramatically reduced,'' Barbara Ryan, an analyst with Deutsche Bank, tells Bloomberg. She doesn't own shares in either company.
Scroggin's claims are only the second to go to trial against Pharmacia & Upjohn. In the first case, a Philadelphia jury ordered P&U to pay $1.5 million in damages to a woman who blamed her cancer on Provera. A judge later threw out the award, as well.
The verdict also is the first against Wyeth since a state court jury in Reno, Nevada, ordered the drugmaker to pay more than $134 million in damages to three women who contend the company's menopause drug caused their breast cancers. A judge Feb. 19 slashed the $134 million verdict to about $58 million, finding that jury "passion and prejudice'' tainted the award.
Three Philadelphia juries also have ruled against Wyeth in the litigation, finding its hormone-replacement medicines helped cause women's cancer and ordering it to pay a total of $4.5 million in damages. Judges late threw out the verdicts against the drugmaker. One of the women was granted a new trial. The others have appealed the rulings.
Source: Bloomberg News