Nevada punitive damage claim against hormone replacement drug manufacturer upheld
This week the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a $58 million dollar damage award against Wyeth Pharmaceuticals, Inc., arising out of the company's failure to warn three women taking Premarin and Prempro of the risk associated with breast cancer. The verdict, including 35 million dollars in punitive damages, was handed down in 2007. The jurors had found that Wyeth acted recklessly in failing to warn women that taking estrogen replacement drugs significantly increased the risk of developing breast cancer.
In Michigan, the companies are immune from any liability for failing to adequately investigate or warn consumers about identified or suspected risks, because the drugs were approved by the FDA. Michigan is the only state in the nation that allows the governmental-pharmaceutical regulating committee [composed substantially of pharmaceutical industry representatives] of the FDA to give manufacturers immunity by approving drugs for sale. Michigan also does not allow jurors to award punitive damages for most personal injuries.
Almost two decades ago, our firm recovered a substantial settlement for a woman whose breast cancer was "fertilized" by continuation of hormone therapy after her diagnosis and during her treatment. Our expert from the National Cancer Institute confirmed that the woman's very treatable small (under 1 cm) lump would have been highly treatable, but for the hormone therapy. Within two years of diagnosis, her cancer had spread throughout her body, including the brain, lungs and liver. The expert presented by the defendant to refute "causation" had testified that hormone therapy does cause breast cancer to spread in a case where he was the patient's retained expert eight years earlier.