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Jury Awards $6.3 Million to Plaintiff in Prempro, Provera Lawsuit

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A Philadelphia jury awarded $6.3 million to a woman who claimed the use of  Prempro and Provera caused  her breast cancer.

According to Bloomberg.com, the Philadelphia jury spent about 5 hours deliberating the Prempro-Provera lawsuit.  The plaintiff, a 66-year-old woman, had a double mastectomy in 2002 after taking the hormone-replacement drugs for 11 years.  The verdict, which was handed down on Friday, was the largest compensatory damage award handed down in cases tried in Philadelphia so far. 

Jurors concluded  that Wyeth and Upjohn officials failed to adequately warn Kendall’s doctors about the drugs’ cancer risks and that failure played a role in the physicians’ decision to prescribe Prempro and Provera.  They also found that Wyeth’s and Upjohn’s conduct in marketing and selling the drugs was hiding health risks was “wanton and reckless,” leaving the companies subject to a punitive damage award.  The jury will begin hearing evidence  today before determining if Wyeth and Upjohn, both units of Pfizer Inc., will have to pay the woman punitive damages.

According to Bloomberg.com, Wyeth has lost six of nine jury verdicts, including the last four in a row, over the drugs since 2006. This is Upjohn’s third loss at the jury stage. A trial judge threw out one verdict and another is on appeal.  One legal expert told Bloomberg.com that losses in Prempro cases may prompt Pfizer to seek a global settlement to resolve the many lawsuits pending over hormone therapy drugs.

Hormone therapy drugs like Premarin, Prempro, Premphase and Provera are used to treat the hot flashes and other symptoms that accompany menopause.  According to Bloomberg.com, until 1995, many patients combined Premarin, Wyeth’s estrogen-based drug, with progestin-laden Provera, made by Upjohn.

In 2002, a major study conducted by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) determined that Prempro, Premarin and similar drugs significantly increased the risk of stroke, blood clots, heart attacks and breast cancer. The study results were so alarming that the NIH canceled the study, citing risk to the study’s participants. The authors of the study suggested that many of the women who used the medications should quit and talk to their doctors about alternatives.

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