Pfizer Cleared of Liability in Prempro Breast Cancer Case

Pfizer Inc. (PFE) isn’t liable for the breast-cancer death of a woman who died after taking menopause drugs made by the company’s units, a Connecticut jury ruled.

Jurors in federal court in Bridgeport deliberated about five hours over two days before finding Pfizer’s Wyeth unit provided proper warnings about the health risks of its Prempro hormone-replacement pill to Lynn Moss. The 62-year-old nurse died in December 2006 “after a protracted battle with breast cancer,” according to court filings.

“This verdict affirms the fact that Wyeth acted responsibly by communicating accurately the risks and benefits of its hormone therapy medicines,” Chris Loder, a Pfizer spokesman, said in an e-mailed statement.

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.

Moss, a Danbury, Connecticut, resident, took all three drugs over a seven-year period starting in 1993 to treat her menopause symptoms, according to court filings. She was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1999.

Evidentiary Rulings

Lawyers for Moss’s family, who pressed on with her lawsuit after her death, said in an e-mailed statement today that they were disappointed with the jury’s verdict.

“There is a great deal of evidence that was excluded from this trial that we believe hampered the jury’s ability to appropriately consider all of the issues,” Neal Moskow, one of the family’s attorneys, said in the statement.

Pfizer’s Wyeth and Upjohn units have now won 10 of 21 Prempro cases decided by juries since trials began in 2006, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

The New York-based drugmaker got some of the verdicts against it thrown out after trial or had the awards reduced. It resolved some of the verdicts through settlements, while other decisions are on appeal. Pfizer also has had cases thrown out before trial and settled others.

Pfizer announced in May 2011 it had settled a third of the pending Prempro cases and had set aside $772 million to help resolve the claims.

Winning Streak

In his statement, Loder said the verdict in the Moss case means Pfizer has now won eight of the last 10 cases that “have reached a final trial verdict.”

The company’s win comes about a month after another Connecticut jury ordered Pfizer to pay at least $4 million in damages to a woman who developed breast cancer after taking Prempro.

That jury, in federal court in New Haven, found Wyeth liable for causing Margaret Fraser’s cancer and awarded compensatory and punitive damages. A judge is considering how much Pfizer should pay in punishment damages, according to court dockets.

The Moss case is Lynn Gardner Moss and Kenneth P. Moss v. Wyeth, 04-cv-1511, U.S. District Court, District of Connecticut (Bridgeport).

To contact the reporters on this story: Jef Feeley in Wilmington, Delaware, at jfeeley@bloomberg.net; John Dillon in New Haven, Connecticut, at j.dillon@snet.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at mhytha@bloomberg.net

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