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Pfizer Wins New Trial of Lawsuit Over Menopause Drugs

A Pfizer Inc. unit won a re-trial of a Pennsylvania lawsuit over its menopause drugs that ended in a first jury’s award of $1.5 million in damages, the company said.

A Philadelphia judge yesterday ruled lawyers for the plaintiff, Merle Simon, must ask another jury to consider whether Pfizer’s Pharmacia & Upjohn subsidiary hid the health risks of its Provera hormone-replacement drug. In December, an appeals court reinstated Simon’s original verdict after it was thrown out by the trial court, giving the judge the option of ordering a new trial.

“We anticipate we have a good opportunity to win another verdict on behalf of Mrs. Simon,” Jim Morris, one of the woman’s lawyers, said in a telephone interview today. “We intend to push forward with this case until justice is served.”

More than 6 million women have taken hormone-replacement medicines to treat menopause symptoms such as hot flashes, night sweats, and mood swings. Until 1995, many patients combined Premarin, an estrogen-based drug made by Wyeth, with progestin-laden Provera, made by Upjohn.

Wyeth later combined the two hormones in Prempro. The drugs are still on the market. New York-based Pfizer, the world’s largest drugmaker, completed its $68 billion purchase of Wyeth in October.

‘Appropriate’ New Trial

“We are pleased with the judge’s ruling as we believe a new trial is appropriate given the facts of this case,” Chris Loder, Pfizer’s spokesman, said in an e-mailed statement today.

A three-judge Superior Court panel on Dec. 31 found state Judge Nitza Quinones Alejandro erred in finding Simon’s claims were barred by Pennsylvania’s statute of limitations on lawsuits.

The panel noted it was “entirely unreasonable” to assume women knew the links between hormone-replacement drugs and breast cancer until the 2002 Women’s Health Initiative study, sponsored by the U.S. National Institutes of Health, made it clear. The study found that women using menopause medicines have a higher risk of breast cancer.

The panel sent the case back to Alejandro so she could decide whether Pfizer was entitled to a new trial, and in the meantime, ordered the jury verdict reinstated, according to the 38-page ruling.

The appeals court still must rule on whether to accept Alejandro’s decision on the new trial.

Morris said a new trial would reinstate Wyeth as a defendant in the case. Jurors in the original case rejected Simon’s claims that Wyeth’s menopause medicine was also a cause of her breast cancer.

The case is Simon v. Wyeth, 040604229, Court of Common Pleas (Philadelphia).

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