drugmaker was ordered to pay a total of $103 million in punitive damages
to two women who were found to have breast cancer after they used the Prempro
or Premarin hormone replacement therapies. In one case, a jury awarded $28
million and a judge unsealed another case from last month with a $75 million
judgment. Both cases played out in a Pennsylvania state court in Philadelphia.
Some 1,500 lawsuits have been filed in Philadelphia and another 10,000 are
lodged in other courts around the country. Lawyers for many plaintiffs say
they have won financial settlements for undisclosed amounts in at least
10 other cases before the suits went to trial, according to The New York
Times. Esther Berezofsky, a lawyer for one of the women who won the awards
in Philadelphia tells the paper that “this is just the tip of the
iceberg.” In cases that had reached jury judgments, women with breast
cancer had won damages in 10 of the 12 hormone drug cases, although many
are on appeal, she tells the paper, adding that a federal appeals court
decision in St. Louis this month had significantly improved the chances
of receiving punitive damages and winning appeals.
decision, a three-judge panel of the US Court of Appeals for the Eighth
Circuit overturned an award of $27 million for an Arkansas woman, citing
improper testimony by an expert witness, but ordered a new trial on punitive
damages. The judges’ ruling said “there was sufficient evidence
upon which a jury could conclude that Wyeth acted with reckless disregard
to the risk of injury.” One Wall Street tells the paper the latest
judgments would have little effect on Pfizer unless the punitive damages
were upheld on appeal. “At this point, it doesn’t concern me
too much,” says Tim Anderson of Sanford C. Bernstein.
For its part, Pfizer denies improper conduct and plans further appeals.