Pfizer ordered to pay $45M in Prempro cases

Posted Jan. 04, 2012, at 4:04 p.m.

Pfizer Inc. must pay more than $45 million in damages to two women who blamed the company’s menopause drugs for their breast cancers, an appeals court has ruled.

Connie Barton and Donna Kendall, two Illinois women who sued Pfizer units Wyeth and Pharmacia & Upjohn over their menopause medications, deserved both compensatory and punitive damages over the companies’ handling of the drugs, a panel of the Pennsylvania Superior Court ruled Tuesday.

“We are very disappointed with the court’s decisions in these cases and continue to believe there was no basis in fact or law for the jury verdicts,” Chris Loder, a spokesman for New York-based Pfizer, said in an emailed statement. Pfizer officials will ask the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to review the lower court’s findings, he said.

More than 6 million women took Prempro and related menopause drugs to treat symptoms including hot flashes and mood swings before a 2002 study highlighted their links to cancer. At one point, Pfizer and its units faced more than 10,000 lawsuits over the medications.

“This is a great way to start 2012 for these two brave women,” Zoe Littlepage, one of Barton’s lawyers, said in a telephone interview Wednesday. Under the appellate ruling, Barton would get a total of $11.2 million while Kendall would get $34.3 million, Littlepage said.

Wyeth’s sales of its Prempro and Premarin medicines, which are still on the market, exceeded $2 billion before the release of the Women’s Health Initiative study sponsored by the National Institutes of Health.

Until 1995, many menopausal women combined Wyeth’s Premarin, an 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.

At the height of the litigation, Pfizer faced more than 10,000 claims that its menopause drugs caused breast cancer, according to lawyers for former users. Those lawsuits included more than 8,000 cases consolidated in federal court in Arkansas and suits in state courts in Pennsylvania, Nevada and Minnesota.

The company has begun settling some suits and has set aside $840 million so far to resolve cases, officials said in November. Pfizer has resolved about 46 percent of the pending Prempro suits, officials said.

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