We previously reported on the jury verdict in the Barton case, which was also tried in Philadelphia. Late last month, the judge presiding over the case, Judge Norman Ackerman, entered an order denying Wyeth’s motions for Judgment Notwithstanding the Verdict, for a new trial, and for remittitur of the $3.7 million compensatory award. The Court did grant a remittitur of the $75 million punitive jury award and entered a final judgment in the amount of $10.6 million. Judge Ackerman, who is not known for entering punitive awards, published a 60-page opinion that does an admirable job of summarizing each of the following:
Judge Ackerman wrote in his order, “This Court wonders how a doctor can make an informed decision that accurately evaluates a patient’s needs when the supplier desires the doctor to have a less-than-clear understanding of the risks and benefits of a drug.” In explaining his reduction of the punitive award, Judge Ackerman states, “The jury’s decision was clear in its rebuke of Wyeth’s reprehensible actions and this Court does not reduce the award because it believes that the punishment should be lessened.” He goes on to explain the reduction was to comply with his interpretation of controlling legal precedent on punitive damages.
In the midst of all the Philadelphia trials, one medical article after another has been published condemning both Wyeth’s conduct in paying for ghost-written articles and its hormone therapy drugs for increasing the risk of everything from cataracts to heart attacks. Its chemical “replacement” for a woman’s natural hormones may have been profitable, but it was clearly a catastrophe for women’s health. Rigorous studies from across the US and at least eight other countries have demonstrated a clear cause and effect relationship between the use of these chemicals and breast cancer. A leading researcher estimates that these drugs caused 20,000 women a year to develop breast cancer.
Given the messages from the scientific community and from the juries, who have heard the facts, one can only wonder why Wyeth (now Pfizer) has made no effort to accept responsibility for its past wrongs and do right by the thousands of women it injured. Instead, the drug manufacturer announces it will accept no jury determination against it and will continue to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to defend itself. Its latest trial strategy was to sever its employment relationships with key witnesses and relocate them to other states so that lawyers like us will no longer be able to compel their attendance at trial and force them to explain their conduct to juries. This attempt to avoid justice, as have the company’s previous attempts, will certainly backfire. One day, its shareholders and/or the FDA may want to ask some very difficult questions to the company’s executives. If you need more information on the HRT litigation, contact Melissa Prickett, Russ Abney or Ted Meadows at 800-898-2034 or by email at Melissa.Prickett@beasleyallen.com, Russ.Abney@beasleyallen.com or Ted.Meadows@beasleyallen.com.
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