Menopause night sweats hormone-replacement therapy drug Prempro caused an Illinois woman’s invasive breast cancer and she deserves $3.7 million, a jury decided in Philadelphia, without yet deciding whether the company was at fault and should pay her.
Jurors deliberated about two hours and 15 minutes before concluding that Wyeth’s drug was a proximate cause of Connie Barton’s breast cancer. Barton, 64, was diagnosed with cancer in 2002, five years after she began taking Prempro to treat menopause symptoms like night sweats.
Jurors will hear arguments on Wyeth’s liability and possible punitive damages at a second phase of the trial starting on Oct. 1. Wyeth, which is being acquired by Pfizer Inc., has said that it faces more than 9,000 lawsuits over its menopause drugs, along with Pfizer’s Pharmacia & Upjohn unit.
The company has now lost five of eight trials over its hormone-replacement drugs since cases began reaching juries in 2006. Some of the verdicts were set aside, and others are on appeal. This is the company’s third straight loss.
Wyeth spokesman Doug Petkus declined to comment on today’s verdict. Barton’s attorney Rainey Booth declined to comment.
Madison, New Jersey-based Wyeth fell 20 cents to $47.86 at 4 p.m. in New York Stock Exchange composite trading. The shares have gained 27.6 percent this year.
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 combined Premarin, Wyeth’s estrogen-based drug, with progestin-laden Provera, made by Pharmacia & Upjohn. Wyeth later combined the two hormones in Prempro. The drugs are still on the market.
Sales of the pills plunged in 2002 after a U.S. study linked the therapy to breast cancer and cardiovascular risks. The products generated $1.1 billion last year, down from more than $2 billion in 2001.
The Barton case is the first over the drug since the U.S. Supreme Court’s March 4 decision saying patients can sue drugmakers over injuries from medicines approved by the government. The ruling broke a logjam of cases in state and federal courts.
The court, in a 6-3 vote, said U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval of a drug doesn’t necessarily bar lawsuits under state law.
The case is Barton v. Wyeth Pharmaceuticals Inc., 040406301, Court of Common Pleas, Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania.