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Jury awards plaintiff $3 million in Wyeth Prempro case

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A Philadelphia jury found on Tuesday that Wyeth’s hormone replacement therapy Prempro was a cause of a woman’s breast cancer and awarded her and her husband damages of $3 million, the drugmaker said.

The entrance to the Wyeth plant in Newbridge, County Killdare, Republic of Ireland is seen in this July 16, 2002 file photo. A Philadelphia jury found on Tuesday that Wyeth's hormone replacement therapy Prempro was a cause of a woman's breast cancer and awarded her and her husband damages of $3 million, the drugmaker said. REUTERS/Paul McErlane

Wyeth said it disagrees with the verdict and plans to appeal.

A previous Philadelphia jury also found in favor of the plaintiff, Jennie Nelson, in October. But the judge threw out that verdict and declared a mistrial, leading to the retrial that concluded on Tuesday.

The original jury at the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas had awarded Nelson and her husband $1.5 million in compensatory damages. This time, Nelson was awarded $2.4 million and her husband $600,000.

The reason for the mistrial declaration was not disclosed at the time, with Nelson’s attorney saying only that it was due to extraneous circumstances. There has been speculation since that the verdict may have been overturned as a result of juror misconduct.

“Both times this case has been heard on terms established by Wyeth and still the juries have clearly found that Prempro causes breast cancer,” Nelson’s attorney Tobias Millrood said in a statement, adding that Wyeth put sales ahead of patient safety.

Nelson of Dayton, Ohio, took Prempro for about six years and blamed it for her breast cancer. She underwent a double mastectomy and required chemotherapy and radiation treatments.

“We respectfully disagree that there is any scientific basis to support the jury’s finding of a causal link between Wyeth’s hormone therapies and the plaintiff’s breast cancer,” Wyeth’s attorney Barbara Binis said in a statement.

Madison, New Jersey-based Wyeth has argued that it acted responsibly in promoting of its hormone replacement drugs and in disclosing to physicians and patients the health risks associated with them.

Wyeth is facing some 5,000 lawsuits over its hormone replacement therapies, which were used by millions of women to control the effects of menopause. The drugs remain on the market despite a major government-sponsored health study that found using them for five years or more can increase the risk of breast cancer.

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