Eli Lilly and Co. has settled a lawsuit brought by four sisters who contended their breast cancer was caused by a drug their mother took during pregnancy in the 1950s. This is believed to be a significant settlement which could result in financial settlements in scores of other claims brought by women around the country. A total of 51 women, including the Melnick sisters, filed lawsuits in Boston against more than a dozen companies that made or marketed a synthetic estrogen known as DES. The Melnick sisters’ case was the first to go to trial. The settlement was announced on January 8th. The case was in its second day of testimony.
DES, or diethylstilbestrol, was prescribed to millions of pregnant women over three decades to prevent miscarriages, premature births and other problems. It was taken off the market in the early 1970s after it was linked to a rare vaginal cancer in women whose mothers used it. Studies later showed the drug didn’t actually prevent miscarriages. The jury was told during opening statements that Eli Lilly failed to test the drug’s effect on fetuses before promoting it as a way to prevent miscarriages. Eli Lilly told the jury that there was no evidence the drug causes breast cancer in the daughters of women who took it. The company contended there were no medical records showing that the mother of the Melnick sisters took DES or that, if she did take it, it was made by Eli Lilly. DES was not patented and was made by many companies.
The Melnick sisters said they all developed breast cancer in their 40s. Their mother did not take DES while pregnant with a fifth sister and that sister has not developed breast cancer. The four Melnick sisters also had miscarriages, fertility problems or other reproductive tract problems long suspected of being caused by prenatal exposure to DES. They were diagnosed with breast cancer between 1997 and 2003 and had treatments ranging from lump-removal surgery to a full mastectomy, radiation and chemotherapy. Thousands of lawsuits have been filed alleging links between DES and vaginal cancer, cervical cancer and fertility problems. Many of those cases have been settled. Aaron M. Levine, a very good lawyer based in Washington D.C., represented the Plaintiffs in this case. He did a very good job for his clients.
Source: Washington Post
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