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Pfizer Properly Warned About Prempro Risks, Jury Finds

Dec. 3 (Bloomberg) -- Pfizer Inc.’s Wyeth unit properly warned a Virginia woman’s doctors about the risks of its Prempro menopause drug, a jury ruled today in rejecting her claim for damages.

Jurors in federal court in Alexandria, Virginia, deliberated about four hours over two days before finding that Georgia Torkie-Tork couldn’t show that Wyeth officials downplayed the breast-cancer risks associated with Prempro, a hormone-replacement drug. The decision was Wyeth’s fourth straight victory in a Prempro suit weighed by a jury.

“We believe the verdict in this case affirms that Wyeth communicated the risks and benefits of Prempro,” Chris Loder, a spokesman for New York-based Pfizer, 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.

Zoe Littlepage, one of Torkie-Tork’s lawyers, didn’t return calls for comment on the jury verdict.

Litigation Record

Pfizer’s Wyeth and Upjohn units have now won seven of the 14 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. Pfizer, the world’s largest drugmaker, completed its $68 billion purchase of Wyeth last year.

Nevada’s Supreme Court last week upheld a $57.6 million jury award to three women who alleged Prempro caused their cancers. That award included $35 million in punitive damages the panel handed down in 2007 over Wyeth officials’ mishandling of the drug.

Torkie-Tork, 65, took Prempro for at least three years before being diagnosed with breast cancer in 2002, her lawyers contended in court papers. The Reston, Virginia, resident works at a Starbucks Corp. coffeehouse.

Records Destroyed

Pfizer’s lawyers argued that Torkie-Tork couldn’t prove she and her doctors received inadequate warnings about Prempro’s cancer risks because she couldn’t show which of her doctors prescribed the menopause drug.

Evidence in the case showed that some of her physicians destroyed their records as part of normal business practices and couldn’t remember prescribing the drug for the woman.

The case is Torkie-Tork v. Wyeth, 04-cv-945, U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia (Alexandria).

To contact the reporter on this story: Jef Feeley in Wilmington, Delaware, at jfeeley@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: David E. Rovella at drovella@bloomberg.net.

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