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Woman wins first phase of Prempro-breast cancer trial

Woman wins first phase of Prempro-breast cancer trial

A jury ruled Wednesday that a hormone replacement drug at least partially caused a woman's breast cancer, but the panel must return to determine whether drug maker Wyeth is liable for damages.
Jennie Nelson, 66, of Dayton, Ohio, had taken Prempro for five years to treat menopausal symptoms before being diagnosed with breast cancer in 2001.
The jury awarded $1 million (euro790,000) to Nelson and $500,000 (euro395,000) to her husband in compensatory damages. But she will get the money only if she proves in the trial's second phase that Wyeth failed to issue sufficient warnings or was otherwise negligent or reckless.
"Other plaintiffs lawyers will see this as an indication that it's possible to prove causation in a Prempro case, and that will be encouraging to plaintiffs and unwelcome news for Wyeth," Seton Hall law professor Howard M. Erichson said.
"But ultimately, if Wyeth prevails in the second phase, then Wyeth will be 2-and-0 in the Prempro litigation and that will be the significant news," he said.
Madison, New Jersey-based Wyeth won the first Prempro case last month when a federal jury in Little Rock, Arkansas, rejected a similar claim filed by a 67-year-old woman there.
About 5,100 women have filed suits over Wyeth hormone drugs Premarin and Prempro, but just a handful are scheduled for trial this year. The Philadelphia case is the second to go to trial.
Wyeth said the company acted responsibly, noting that the Food and Drug Administration in 1995 called hormone replacement drugs the most extensively researched medicines in the United States.
"We are going to show that the company acted responsibly and reasonably by performing and reporting studies that examined the known and potential benefits and risks of hormone therapy, and also in keeping all parties involved _ the FDA, physicians and patients _ informed of the risks and benefits," spokesman Christopher Garland said.
The verdict came only hours after Common Pleas Judge Norman Ackerman replaced a juror on the panel, which had been meeting for six days, with an alternate and told them to start deliberating anew.
The trial's second phase is scheduled to start Oct. 14 and is expected to last several weeks.
Nelson underwent a double mastectomy, chemotherapy and radiation, according to her lawyer, Tobi Millrood. Her mother also had breast cancer after menopause, but the chance of a genetic link between the two cases is very low, he said.
"The medical evidence overwhelmingly showed that Wyeth's drug Prempro caused her breast cancer," Millrood said.
The hormone drugs are still on the market, but sales have dropped sharply since 2001, the last year before government studies suggested a link between hormone therapy and some diseases.
Wyeth maintains that it is impossible to prove that PrempPro caused individual cases of breast cancer.
Wyeth shares rose 26 cents to close at $51.18 Wednesday on the New York Stock Exchange.


Updated : 2020-12-02 00:20 GMT+08:00