September 12, 2012 — A jury has decided on another multi-million dollar award for a woman who claims the drug Prempro, which is used in Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT), caused her breast cancer. The federal jury awarded a Utah woman, Toshiko Okuda, $5.1 million after finding that drug-makers were negligent in failing to warn doctors and patients about the risk of breast cancer.
The U.S. District Court jury sat through four weeks of testimony and deliberations before making their decision. The lawsuit has been pending since 2004. Under Utah law, juries are only allowed to award compensatory damages, and not punitive damages.
Okuda used several HRT medications to treat severe symptoms of menopause, including Premarin, Provera, and Prempro for about 17 years. In 2002, she was diagnosed with infiltrating ductal breast cancer. Her treatment was successful.
The link between HRT and breast cancer was first established when researchers from the National Institutes of Health reviewed data from the Women’s Health Initiative study, and found an increased risk of invasive ductal breast cancer among women taking Prempro. Millions of women were taking the drug to treat debilitating symptoms of menopause. Approximately 10,000 lawsuits were filed. The drug companies responsible for Prempro, Wyeth Pharmaceuticals and Upjohn (which have been acquired by Pfizer), have already spent about $900 million to resolve the cases. Approximately 40% of the cases are still pending, and Pfizer has set aside $330 million to settle these lawsuits.
Pfizer has vowed to appeal the jury’s decision. According to Christopher Loder, spokesman for Pfizer, “We are disappointed with the jury’s verdict and believe there is no basis in fact or law for this decision. … Hormone replacement therapy medicines are an important treatment option for many women with debilitating symptoms of menopause.”
In July 2012, an appeals court ruled that a jury correctly decided to award Audrey Singleton $10.4 million for her Prempro lawsuit. The three-judge panel said, “Wyeth’s concerted effort to misdirect physicians from the dangers of Prempro illustrates the consciousness that its conduct was not at all reasonable.”