Saturday, April 21, 2012

Jury hits Pfizer with damage award | The Columbus Dispatch

By  Jef Feeley

BLOOMBERG NEWS Saturday April 21, 2012 6:34 AM


Pfizer must pay at least $4 million in damages to a woman who developed breast cancer after taking the company’s Prempro menopause drug, a jury in Connecticut ruled.

Jurors in federal court in New Haven ruled that Pfizer’s Wyeth unit is liable for causing Margaret Fraser’s cancer and that Prempro is an “unreasonably dangerous product,” Greg Bubalo, one of Fraser’s attorneys, said yesterday. The panel also found that Wyeth should pay punitive damages over its handling of the drug.

The jury concluded that Wyeth officials’ handling of the drug “was reckless, and they had misrepresented the risks and benefits of its drug to patients and doctors,” Bubalo said. A federal judge will decide later how much in punitive damages Pfizer must pay, he said.

More than 6 million women took Prempro and related menopause drugs to treat symptoms such as hot flashes and mood swings before a 2002 study highlighted the drugs’ links to cancer.

Wyeth’s sales of the medicines, which are still on the market, topped $2 billion before the release of the Women’s Health Initiative, a study sponsored by the National Institutes of Health.

Until 1995, many menopausal women combined Premarin, Wyeth’s estrogen-based drug, with progestin-laden Provera, made by Pfizer’s Upjohn unit, to relieve their symptoms. Wyeth combined the two hormones in its Prempro pill.

“We are disappointed with the verdict and will evaluate our legal options once the court completes its work in this case,” Pfizer spokesman Chris Loder said in an emailed statement.

Pfizer’s Wyeth and Upjohn units now have lost 11 of 20 Prempro jury verdicts since trials began in 2006, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Pfizer got some of the verdicts thrown out after trial, or the awards cut.

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