Two breast cancer survivors awarded $100 million in HRT lawsuits
The message was heard loud and clear – powerful drug companies that make billions from products they know pose a significant risk of life-threatening health consequences to the people who take them, owe their victims. Big time.
This week, Pfizer, which recently acquired Wyeth, the makers of the hormone replacement therapies (HRT) Prempro and Premarin, were hit with more than $100 million in two punitive-damage awards from Philadelphia juries. The two plaintiffs, Connie Barton and Donna Kendall, claimed the drugs caused their breast cancer.
The evidence was startling. Plaintiffs attorneys proved that Wyeth launched a massive campaign to push the benefits of its HRT drugs to doctors and the general public while knowingly dismissing or downplaying other institutes’ data that revealed an increased risk of breast cancer with the use of combination hormone therapy. The company went to such lengths as to hire ghostwriters to write articles for reputable medical journals that minimized the breast cancer risk and exaggerated the benefits of HRT.
It wasn’t until the government-initiated Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) that everything changed. WHI was a 15-year study launched in 1991 that aimed to address the most common causes of death, disability and poor quality of life in postmenopausal women, including cardiovascular disease, cancer and osteoporosis. In 2002, WHI halted the estrogen-plus-progestin trial after investigators found that the associated health risks of the combined hormone therapy out weighted the benefits. The 2002 report showed there was a 24 percent increase in the risk for breast cancer due to estrogen-plus-progestin HRT.
“Wyeth had no concern whatsoever for the health of the patients. They were only concerned about their profits,” says Michael Richmond, a jury foreperson in a Prempro trial.
Sales of Prempro and Premarin exceeded $2 billion a year before 2002. Last year, $1.4 billion in estrogen drugs and $400 million in estrogen-progestin combination drugs were sold in the United States.
HRT Jury Verdict Chart