A Philadelphia jury has awarded an Illinois woman $6.3 million in compensatory damages in a lawsuit over Prempro and Provera hormone replacement therapy (HRT) drugs, which the plaintiff alleged was responsible for her development of breast cancer. The case will now enter the punitive damages phase of the trial, to determine whether more money should be awarded as punishment for the manufacturers’ handling of the drugs.
The case was the second Prempro trial to result in a multi-million dollar compensatory damage award in recent months. The case involves a claim for Donna Kendall, 66, who had a double mastectomy in 2002 to treat breast cancer from Prempro and Provera combination therapy, which she took for 11 years.
In October, another Philadelphia jury decided a similar case filed by Connie Barton, 64, who was diagnosed with breast cancer after taking the hormone replacement therapy for five years to treat menopause symptoms. In the first phase of that trial, the jury awarded Barton $3.7 million in compensatory damages and subsequently awarded punitive damages after determining that Wyeth, which was recently acquired by Pfizer, purposefully hid the risk of breast cancer. The amount of that punitive damage award was immediately sealed to avoid influence on the jury in the Kendall trial, which was already underway in the same court.
Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) involves the use of hormones and progestins to artificially boost hormone levels in women undergoing menopause due to surgery or in postmenopausal women, to provide relief from symptoms such as hot flashes, irregular menstruation or weight gain.
In 2002 the National Institutes of Health released the results of studies that found women receiving HRT were at higher risk of breast cancer, strokes and heart attacks. The studies, part of the Women’s Health Initiative, sparked most of the 9,000 Prempro lawsuits currently pending.
In one lawsuit pending in Florida, Wyeth faces the risk of having millions of documents made public that it is fighting to keep secret. Under Florida’s “sunshine” laws, which allow the public unprecedented access to government records, the court may not keep secret any documents that might concern a public hazard.
The attorneys pursuing a lawsuit on behalf of Loretta Esposito have refused to sign a confidentiality order that Wyeth wants to require before giving them access to 16 million discovery documents. Other attorneys in Prempro cases in other states have had to sign the agreement to get access to the documents; however, according to a report in the St. Petersburg Times, Florida’s sunshine laws may make the records open to the public for the first time.
A hearing is scheduled to day in Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Court to see if the Florida law will allow the attorneys to access the records without the confidentiality agreement.