Reno jury awards millions in Wyeth drug trial
October 11, 2007
RENO ” A jury levied a $134.5 million judgment against pharmaceutical giant Wyeth in a lawsuit filed by three Nevada women who claimed the company’s hormone replacement drugs caused their breast cancer.
It was the largest award to date against the New Jersey-based company, which faces about 5,300 similar lawsuits across the country in state and federal courts.
The panel deliberated for two days before announcing its verdict late Wednesday in favor of Jeraldine Scofield, 75, of Fallon; Arlene Rowatt, 67, of Incline Village; and Pamela Forrester, 64, of Yerington.
The same five-man, two-woman jury will return to the courtroom Friday to consider punitive damages against the drug maker.
Wyeth spokesman Doug Petkus on Thursday said the company would have no comment because the case was not finished.
But in an e-mail to The Associated Press, he noted that 20 similar cases have gone to trial or been otherwise resolved. Of those, he said three resulted in favor of the company, two plaintiff verdicts were set aside by the courts, and three cases were dismissed on summary judgment.
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Twelve other cases were voluntarily dismissed by plaintiffs before trial, he said.
During the four-week Reno trial, the women testified that they started taking Premarin, an estrogen replacement, and Prempro, a combination of estrogen and progestin, to help offset menopausal symptoms, but were taken off the therapy when they developed breast cancer.
Wyeth lawyers argued the company sponsored or participated in a list of studies on the risks of breast cancer, and detailed risks on warning labels included with each bottle of the drug.
They also said the drug, approved the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, is not dangerous and remains on the market.
All three women were awarded $7.5 million in past damages. Jurors also awarded $36 million each to Scofield and Rowatt for future damages, and $40 million to Forrester.
After the verdict was announced, the women hugged their attorneys and cried.
“You so deserved this,” one lawyer, Zoe Littlepage, told them. “You so, so deserved this.”
Geoffry White, another lawyer for the women, also deferred comment Thursday until after the punitive phase.
Wyeth reached an undisclosed settlement last October with a fourth woman who had been part of the Washoe District Court lawsuit.
Carol McCreary was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2001 after taking Prempro for about 33 months. She died in April at age 59.
Wyeth shares dropped 19 cents in midday trading to $45.97.
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