Prempro Breast Cancer Trial Ends in $135 million Verdict

Defective Drugs

At the conclusion of a month-long trial, three women who say their breast cancers were linked with their use of Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) drugs Prempro and Premarin from Wyeth Pharmaceuticals, were rewarded a total of $134.5 million by a jury.

The jury was responding obviously not only to the women’s claims, but, by handing out almost $100 million in punitive damages, showing that Wyeth acted maliciously in its aggressive marketing of the drug, which included claims that the drug protected against osteoporosis (a benefit which Wyeth’s lawyers heavily touted mid-trial), cardiovascular disease, and heart attacks. The drug was later shown to increase risks for cardiovascular disease, heart attacks, strokes, and blood clots (similar to those seen in studies relating to the Ortho Evra birth control patch) in addition to breast cancer.

After listening to testimony that the company saw red flags relating to the drugs as early as 1975, while encouraging its sales force to play down risks and play up benefits, the jury saw the company’s pattern as deliberately risking the health of patients for the sake of profits.

For their part, Wyeth company lawyers argued that there was no proof of the link between the women’s cancers and their drugs, taking a familiar corporate tack similar to that taken in toxic tort cases such as cancers related to the Mission, Texas pesticide plant. They claimed the women had other risk factors, such as age, a strategy they have used before and no doubt plan to use again.

But the jury refused to believe this, and they were even more upset by the company’s refusal to apologize even after the compensatory damages phase of the trial. They were also upset by the company’s refusal to send corporate representatives to the trial.

Lawyers for Wyeth called the verdict, “an extreme aberration,” saying “It is inconsistent with every other hormone therapy case to be tried to date and it is inconsistent with the evidence.” However, this may be fear talking, for Wyeth has 5300 such cases still pending.

In this case, lawyers successfully put the fear of repercussions into pharmaceutical companies, which is just as it should be. If you or someone you love has suffered an adverse side effect as a result of a defective pharmaceutical drug, contact today to get in touch with a local lawyer who can help you get justice.