Wyeth Must Face Woman’s Prempro Lawsuit
A Texas appeals court has ruled that Wyeth, the drug maker being acquired by Pfizer Inc., must face a lawsuit filed by a woman who claims her breast cancer was caused by the menopause medicine Prempro. A state court judge had dismissed the case on federal preemption. The court said in its April 14th ruling, that Susan Brockert’s “failure-to-warn” claims aren’t preempted by federal drug-labeling regulations, overturning the lower court judge’s finding. The ruling sent the case back to the lower court for further proceedings. In its ruling, the appeals panel cited the U.S. Supreme Court’s Levine decision. As widely reported, the high court in that case said patients can sue drug makers for failing to provide adequate safety warnings, even when a treatment and its packaging are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
While this is great news for Ms. Brockert, who contends Wyeth’s Prempro caused her breast cancer, it’s also very good news for the many Texas women who have filed similar lawsuits. Related lawsuits over hormone therapy drugs such as Prempro, Premarin and Provera that had been on hold pending a decision will now move forward. Approximately 14,000 women have filed hormone therapy lawsuits against Wyeth and Pfizer. As many as 6 million women took the hormone-replacement therapies to ease menopause symptoms, such as hot flashes and mood swings, before a 2002 study turned up cancer links.
In January, Senator Grassley sent a letter to Wyeth’s CEO, Bernard Poussot, kicking off an investigation into their role in paying ghostwriters to publish medical articles favorable to Prempro. In March, we reported on the ever-mounting evidence that hormone therapy causes breast cancer. It should come as no surprise that in Pfizer’s recent announcement to purchase Wyeth for $68 billion, they will pay Poussot $53 million to resign. Not bad for a man who seems to have crossed ethical guidelines in his work.