Pfizer will have to pay $58 million to three women who previously won a Prempro breast cancer lawsuit against the company’s Wyeth unit, after the U.S. Supreme Court refused to entertain an appeal by the company.
The Supreme Court declined to hear the company’s claim that closing arguments from plaintiffs attorneys biased the jury in a hormone replacement therapy (HRT) lawsuit won by three Nevada women in 2007, which initially led to a $134.1 million jury award to Arlene Rowatt, Jeraldine Scofield and Pamela Forrester.
The initial award was later reduced to $57.6 million, but Pfizer argued that there should have been a new trial.
The rejected appeal to the nation’s highest court comes less than a month after Pfizer reported having put aside $772 million to settle Prempro breast cancer lawsuits.
Prempro contains a combination of the drugs Provera and Premarin, to artificially boost hormone levels in women undergoing menopause due to surgery or in postmenopausal women. Known as hormone replacement therapy, or HRT, the drugs are designed to provide relief from symptoms such as hot flashes, irregular menstruation or weight gain.
About 10,000 Prempro lawsuits have been filed against Pfizer’s wholly-owned subsidiary Wyeth. All of the claims involve similar allegations that Wyeth failed to adequately research the side effects of Prempro or warn that the medication may increase the risk of breast cancer.
Most of the complaints were filed after a 2002 study by the National Institutes of Health found that women receiving hormone replacement therapy (HRT) were at a higher risk of breast cancer, strokes and heart attacks. By that time, Prempro and other HRT drugs had been used by more than 6 million women.
A number of Prempro trials have resulted in multi-million dollar compensatory awards against the drug maker and even larger punitive damage awards after juries determined that Wyeth intentionally hid the risk of breast cancer from Prempro.
Pfizer has previously indicated that Prempro settlements have been reached in roughly one-third of the claims brought on behalf of women diagnosed with breast cancer. Another 3,000 of the cases have been dismissed. However, the company continues to face thousands of Prempro breast cancer lawsuits.