jury has found drug giant Pfizer Inc. guilty of deliberately ignoring evidence
that hormone replacement therapy (HRT) drug Prempro increased women's risk
of breast cancer, ordering it to pay unspecified damages to defendant Connie
Millions of women
used Prempro and other HRT drugs up until 2002, when the groundbreaking
Women's Health Initiative study found that taking the drugs significantly
increased women's risk of breast cancer and death from cardiovascular disease.
The risk was so striking that researchers called an early halt to the study
out of concern for participants' lives. The drugs were -- and still are
-- marketed to relieve the symptoms of menopause, such as hot flashes, mood
swings and night sweats.
More recent research
suggests that HRT drugs also increase women's risk of dying from lung cancer.
was marketed by Wyeth, Pfizer assumed liability for Wyeth's prior actions
when it purchased the company in October.
According to Barton's
lawyers, Wyeth was aware of the risks of Prempro well before the release
of the Women's Health Initiative results, but made no efforts to withdraw
the drug from the market or warn women or doctors of its effects.
back in the 1970s that these drugs had the potential to cause breast cancer,"
said attorney Esther Berezofsky, "so they didn't have the studies done."
When negative results began to emerge, Berezofsky said, Wyeth attempted
to downplay them.
The jury agreed,
ruling not only that Prempro had caused Barton's case of invasive breast
cancer, but that the drug company was to blame.
Before its acquisition,
Wyeth also admitted to practices such as ghostwriting articles for publication
in medical journals, promoting off-label (unapproved) uses of drugs and
making lavish gifts to doctors. Pfizer claims the company has since abandoned
The Barton case
is only one of 9,000 Prempro-related lawsuits filed in the United States
to date. Of eight cases to go to trial, five have ended in "guilty"
verdicts for the company. Pfizer has appealed all five.
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