Double-Trouble for Pfizer in HRT Litigation

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Washington, DCPharmaceutical giant Pfizer may find itself on the hook for more than $100 million dollars after two juries undertaking two separate hormone replacement therapy (HRT) trials awarded two plaintiffs $75 million and $34 million respectively.

The most recent trial concluded November 23rd. Plaintiff Donna Kendall had been taking Wyeth's estrogen drug Premarin and Upjohn's progesterone drug Provera between October 1991 and 1998. During the latter year Kendall switched to Wyeth's Prempro—a combination of estrogen and progesterone—and continued until her diagnosis for breast cancer in 2002.

Kendall underwent a double mastectomy that same year. Since then cancer has been found in her lymph node system and there is a 75 percent chance of recurrence.

In two separate awards over two days, the jury trial in the case awarded Kendall $6 million in compensatory damages and $28 million in punitive damages: $16 million against Wyeth and $12 million against Pharmacia & Upjohn, for a total award of $34 million.

Pfizer now owns Pharmacia & Upjohn as well as Wyeth.

Following the Kendall v. Wyeth case, the particulars of a trial wrapped in October were revealed for the first time. Also an HRT case, Barton v. Wyeth ended October 29th with the awarding of $3.7 million in compensatory damages and $75 million in punitive damages.

Plaintiff Connie Barton claimed in her pre-trial statement that she had taken Wyeth's Prempro between May 1997 and May 2002. Also diagnosed with breast cancer, Barton underwent a left mastectomy and reconstructive surgery.

Both plaintiffs argued that the defendants were negligent, had failed to warn of breast cancer risks in the drug labeling and had allegedly conducted fraud and willful conduct.

Pfizer signaled that it is digging in its heels. "We are disappointed with the verdicts in these cases," said Pfizer spokesman Chris Loder in an e-mailed statement. "The company believes that neither the awards of punitive damages nor the liability verdicts were supported by the evidence or the law. We plan to challenge both decisions in post-trial motions and, if necessary, through an appeal."

Following the Kendall trial the jury spoke to the defense attorneys, according to the November 24th issue of the Legal Intelligencer. "You need to study your drugs," the jurors said. "We felt you didn't want to know bad answers," on an alleged causal link between HRT drugs, breast cancer and other ailments.

In awarding punitive damages for Kendall's injuries, "we're not talking about a fender bender or something that is insignificant," plaintiff counsel Tobi Millrood said. "We're talking about taking away someone's dignity. We're talking about taking away someone's femininity."

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