Pfizer Inc. has agreed to settle an Arkansas woman’s claims that the company’s Prempro menopause drug caused her breast cancer, avoiding a second trial on the issue of punitive damages trial in the case. Pfizer faced a retrial this month of Donna Scroggin’s claims that the world’s largest drugmaker should pay millions of dollars as punishment for mishandling its Prempro hormone-replacement medicine. An appeals court overturned a $27.1 million punitive award last year and ordered a new trial on damages.
The company has now agreed to settle Ms. Scroggin’s case. Judge William Wilson is overseeing more than 8,000 cases involving the medicine, consolidated in federal court in Arkansas. Wyeth has lost seven of the 12 Prempro cases juries have considered since the cases began going to trial in 2006. The drug maker got some of those verdicts thrown out at the post-trial stage or had awards reduced. It has now settled some of the other cases, including Ms. Scroggin’s lawsuit. Pfizer also has won dismissals of more than 3,000 cases at either the pretrial stage or after the cases have been set for trial.
More than 6 million women took the hormone-replacement pills to treat menopause symptoms including hot flashes, night sweats and mood swings. The medicines are still on the market. Pfizer bought Wyeth last year for $68 billion. Ms. Scroggin and other women contend company executives ignored studies raising questions about the link between hormone-replacement drugs and breast cancer to pump up sales. Annual sales of Wyeth’s hormone-replacement drugs topped $2 billion before a 2002 study sponsored by the U.S. National Institutes of Health suggested women using the medicines had a higher breast cancer risk.
In March 2008, a jury in federal court in Little Rock, Arkansas, ordered Wyeth to pay a total of $29.8 million in damages to Ms. Scroggin, including $2.7 million in actual damages. The U.S. Court of Appeals in St. Louis threw out the punitive award in November 2009, saying the trial judge allowed jurors to hear inadmissible evidence in the punitive-damages phase of the first trial. It left Ms. Scroggin’s actual-damage award intact.
Pfizer also has agreed to settle another woman’s claims over the company’s menopause drugs that resulted in a $1.5 million jury award. A Philadelphia jury found in May 2007 that Merle Simon’s breast cancer was caused by Provera, a hormone-replacement drug made by Pfizer’s Pharmacia & Upjohn unit. A judge later threw out the $1.5 million actual-damage award. An appeals court reinstated the award in December.
James A. Morris and Steve M. Faries represented the Plaintiffs in both cases. These lawyers fought hard, never gave up and finally received justice for their clients.
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