Pfizer Ordered to Pay $1.5 Million in Prempro Damages
Jurors in federal court in San Juan deliberated about 7 hours over two days before finding yesterday that Pfizer’s Wyeth subsidiary failed to properly warn Helen Rivera-Adams and her doctors about the health risks of its Prempro menopause medicine, one of her lawyers said in an interview.
Rivera-Adams, suffering from the late stages of cancer, pushed ahead with the trial “to get the message out that this drug is dangerous,” Michael Robb, one of her lawyers, said in a telephone interview today. “I don’t know how many times Wyeth executives will have to hear that this drug ruins women’s lives before they acknowledge it,” he said.
“We are disappointed with the jury’s verdict and believe there is no basis in fact or law for this decision,” Christopher Loder, a spokesman for New York-based Pfizer, said in an e- mailed statement today. The company is weighing its legal options.”
“Hormone therapy medicines are an important treatment option for many women with debilitating symptoms of menopause,” he said. “The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has regularly reviewed the benefits and risks of these medicines,” he said.
More than 6 million women took Prempro and related menopause drugs to treat symptoms such as hot flashes and mood swings before a 2002 study highlighted their links to cancer. Wyeth’s sales of the medicines, which are still on the market, topped $2 billion before the release of the Women’s Health Initiative, a National Institutes of Health-sponsored study.
Until 1995, many menopausal women combined Premarin, Wyeth’s estrogen-based drug, with progestin-laden Provera, made by Pfizer’s Upjohn unit, to relieve their symptoms. Wyeth combined the two hormones in its Prempro pill.
Pfizer, the world’s largest drugmaker, completed its $68 billion purchase of Wyeth last year.
Pfizer’s Wyeth and Upjohn units have now lost eight of the 15 Prempro cases decided by juries since trials began in 2006. The drugmaker got some of those verdicts thrown out after trial or had the awards reduced. It resolved some of the verdicts through settlements, while other decisions are on appeal.
Wyeth also has won dismissals of more than 3,000 cases before trial, according to court filings. The companies had won the last four Prempro suits to go to trial before Rivera-Adams’s case.
San Juan Pharmacist
Rivera-Adams, 62, is a pharmacist in San Juan who owns her own drugstore, Robb said. She and her family had sought $8 million in damages over her Prempro-linked breast cancer, he said.
Jurors found the drug helped cause Rivera-Adams’s cancer and that Wyeth officials didn’t provide adequate warnings about the drug’s cancer risks to her or her doctors, said Robb, who is based in Miami.
Rivera-Adams took Prempro for 19 months before being diagnosed with cancer in January 2002, according to court filings.
The case is Rivera-Adams v. Wyeth, 03-1713 (JAF), U.S. District Court, District of Puerto Rico (San Juan).
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