Basically, the plaintiff, Donna Kendall, a 59 year old grocery clerk from Illinois, alleged that she had taken for a period of just over 6 years estrogen-based Premarin, manufactured by Wyeth Pharmaceuticals Inc. together with progestin-laden Provera, manufactured by Pharmacia & Upjohn Company, which later became a division of Pfizer Inc., to treat her menopausal symptoms, which had been recommended by her private physician.
In 1998, her physician suggested that she switch to a single drug, Prempro, which she took until the time she discovered a lump in her breast.
Kendall claimed that her cancer was the result of 11 years of taking this combination therapy. Her attorneys put on substantial (and convincing – it would seem) evidence that these defendant manufacturers had spent a great deal of effort and money to discredit researchers, who were warning of the dangers inherent in this type of combination therapy. The Verdict Search summary of the case reads in relevant part:
The plaintiff’s theory that the companies did not adequately warn of breast cancer risk focused on the defendants’ active steps to neutralize and discredit researchers. Counsel presented evidence attempting to show that the drug companies spent tremendous amounts of money making sure that the medical data outlining the cancerous effects of combination hormone therapy would not get through to physicians. To do this, the defendants hired a public relations firm to devise media plans in attempt to counter any perceived ill publicity about the drugs, which was done to protect sales and profits, according to plaintiff’s counsel.
The plaintiff’s pharmaceutical regulatory experts testified that the defendants were aware of a need to conduct a cancer study in response to the hormone drugs but failed to adequately do so. The experts also testified that the warnings on the Premarin, Provera and Prempro drug labels failed to adequately cite the risks of developing breast cancer.
The breakdown of the verdict is reported as being
$6,300,000 Personal Injury: compensatory damages
6,000,000 Personal Injury: punitive damages against Wyeth
$12,000,000 Personal Injury: punitive damages against Upjohn
No doubt an appeal was filed. We will try to follow this case and report on its outcome.