Pfizer Inc. must pay at least $4 million in damages to a woman who developed breast cancer after taking the company's Prempro menopause drug, a jury in Connecticut ruled.
Jurors in federal court in New Haven ruled Wednesday that Pfizer's Wyeth unit was liable for causing Margaret Fraser's cancer and that Prempro was an "unreasonably dangerous product," Greg Bubalo, one of Fraser's lawyers, said Friday. The panel also found Wyeth should pay punitive damages over its handling of the drug.
The jury concluded that Wyeth's handling of the drug "was reckless and they had misrepresented the risks and benefits of its drug to patients and doctors," Bubalo said. A federal judge will decide later how much in punitive damages Pfizer must pay, he said.
More than 6 million women took Prempro and related menopause drugs to treat symptoms such as hot flashes and mood swings before a 2002 study highlighted their links to cancer. Wyeth's sales of the medicines, which are still on the market, topped $2 billion before the release of the Women's Health Initiative, a National Institutes of Health-sponsored study.
Until 1995, many menopausal women combined Premarin, Wyeth's estrogen-based drug, with progestin-laden Provera, made by Pfizer's Upjohn unit, to relieve their symptoms. Wyeth combined the two hormones in its Prempro pill.
"We are disappointed with the verdict and will evaluate our legal options once the court completes its work in this case," Chris Loder, a Pfizer spokesman, said in an emailed statement. "Since the case is continuing, it would not be appropriate to comment any further at this time."
Pfizer's Wyeth and Upjohn units have now lost a total of 11 of 20 Prempro cases decided by juries since trials began in 2006, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
The New York-based drugmaker got some of those verdicts thrown out after trial or had the awards reduced. It resolved some of the verdicts through settlements, while other decisions are on appeal. Pfizer also has had cases thrown out before trial and settled others.