A couple who contended that a hormone-replacement drug caused the woman’s breast cancer was awarded $1.5 million (euro1.16 million) this week in a jury verdict in Philadelphia against drug maker Wyeth.
The jury also found that Wyeth acted with malice or reckless disregard, prompting a hearing on possible punitive damages.
The Philadelphia jury awarded $1 million (euro770,000) in compensatory damages to plaintiff Mary Daniel and $500,000 (euro387,000) to her husband, Tom, a courtroom clerk said.
Mary Daniel, 60, of Hot Springs, Arkansas, developed breast cancer after taking the Wyeth drug Prempro — a combination of estrogen and progestin — every other day for about 16 months to relieve hot flashes.
Daniel had two surgeries and underwent chemotherapy and radiation following her July 2001 diagnosis. She has since been cancer-free.
Her lawyer said Wyeth knew of research indicating a link between Prempro and cancer, but put profits ahead of patients.
“Wyeth has known for decades that postmenopausal drugs cause breast cancer, but the company deliberately failed to do studies to understand or quantify that risk,” lawyer Zoe Littlepage said. “Wyeth protected their bottom dollar instead of protecting the patients.”
At its height, Wyeth sold $2 billion a year in drugs that treat menopausal symptoms, including Premarin and Prempro. But many women stopped taking them after the federal Women’s Health Initiative study in July 2002 found higher rates of breast cancer and heart problems in women who took estrogen-progestin pills.
Wyeth spokesman Christopher Garland declined to comment after Monday’s verdict, citing a request by the trial judge.
In closing arguments, Wyeth denied any malice and noted that doctors still prescribe Prempro for some women. Lawyer Peter Grossi suggested that Daniel’s breast cancer was caused by other risk factors, including the density of her breasts and a family history of cancer.
The jury deliberated for about two days following a three-week trial.
Daniel’s lawsuit is the third of about 4,500 against Wyeth to reach a jury.
Wyeth won its first trial in Arkansas in August, and a mistrial was declared in the second trial in Philadelphia in October.
Other suits are pending in the courts.
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