Jury Finds Woman’s Breast Cancer Not Caused by Prempro

Breaking a five-case losing streak for Pfizer, Inc., a Philadelphia jury ruled late last week in favor of the drug company and its subsidiary, Wyeth, in a Prempro breast cancer lawsuit. While the jury did find that the company failed to adequately warn about the risk of breast cancer from Prempro, the plaintiff failed to establish for the jury that the hormone replacement therapy (HRT) was the cause of her breast cancer.

The ruling, which was returned in a case filed by the family of Cheryl Foust, came only days after a different Philadelphia jury awarded nearly $10 million in compensatory and punitive damages in another breast cancer lawsuit over Prempro.

This is the fourth victory for the drug makers out of 11 cases that have gone to trial so far. However, there are an estimated 9,000 cases still pending, and many of the losses have involved substantial punitive damage awards designed to punish the drug makers for hiding the risk of breast cancer associated with Prempro.

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Prempro is a hormone replacement therapy (HRT) that contains a combination of the drugs Provera and Premarin. The drug was originally developed by Wyeth, which was acquired by Pfizer last year. HRTs use 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 hormone replacement therapy breast cancer lawsuits currently pending throughout the country. All of the cases involve similar allegations that the drug maker was aware of the risk and kept it from doctors, causing plaintiffs to develop breast cancer.

Foust died in 2005 at the age of 56 from breast cancer. She had taken Prempro for about four years before being diagnosed with the disease in 2003. Although the jury held that Wyeth failed to adequately warn Foust’s prescriber about the risk of Prempro side effects and that the failure to warn was a factor in the decision to prescribe the medication, the jurors determined that it was not proven that Foust’s breast cancer was caused by Prempro.


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