Prempro Verdict for Punitive Damages Reduced by Judge

A Pennsylvania judge has slashed a jury’s $78.7 million award in a Prempro breast cancer lawsuit, saying that the punitive damage portion of the verdict was excessive.

In October 2009, a Philadelphia jury awarded Connie Barton $3.7 million in compensatory damages and another $75 million in punitive damages after finding that Wyeth hid the risk of breast cancer from Prempro.

In an order issued by Judge Norman Ackerman of the Philadelphia Common Pleas Court, the punitive damages award was reduced to $5.62 million. However, the compensatory damage award was left intact and Judge Ackerman added another $1.25 million in interest to the award, bringing the total Prempro verdict to $10.5 million.

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Barton’s case is one of about 9,000 Prempro lawsuits pending against Pfizer’s Wyeth subsidiary. All of the lawsuits involve similar allegations that the drug maker failed to adequately warn about the risk of invasive breast cancer from hormone replacement therapies, and intentionally hid the cancer risk from women.

Hormone replacement therapy 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 breast cancer lawsuits currently against the company.

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