Processing Magazine

Prempro Case Verdict Upheld by Court

February 1, 2008
The Associated Press reported recently that a federal appeals court upheld a jury''s finding that Wyeth Pharmaceuticals wasn''t liable in the case of a Little Rock woman who got breast cancer after taking the company''s hormone-replacement therapy.

Helene Rush sued the company''s parent, Wyeth, in 2005, accusing the New Jersey drug maker of negligence in its Premarin and Prempro hormone replacement therapy. Thousands of similar lawsuits have been filed across the country. The jury last year ruled in favor of Wyeth in Rush''s case.

Rush was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1999. Her attorneys said she had taken Wyeth''s estrogen-progestin hormone therapy for nearly a decade.

In her appeal, Rush said that the jury received improper instructions and that a federal judge allowed improper expert testimony while disallowing expert testimony for Rush.

Lawyers for Wyeth said at trial that Rush likely would have developed breast cancer regardless of whether she took Premarin and Prempro because of genetic and health factors, such as weight gain and a history of smoking.

Both drugs remain on the market and carry the approval of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and both continue to be prescribed annually to hundreds of thousands of women to alleviate symptoms of menopause.

The drugs contain warnings that the drug has been linked to breast cancer. At trial, Rush admitted that she didn''t read the information packet included with her prescription.

Plaintiffs have had mixed results with the lawsuits. An Ohio woman was initially awarded $3 million in a case in Pennsylvania, though a judge later overturned the award. In Reno, Nev., last year, jurors awarded $99 million in punitive damages to three Nevada women who sued over the hormone therapy.

A Benton, Ark., woman lost her case in 2006.

Jury selection is scheduled to begin Monday in another Wyeth trial in Arkansas. Donna Scroggin of Little Rock sued the drug maker in 2004 over its hormone replacement therapy. The trial, in Judge William Wilson''s courtroom, is expected to last three to four weeks.