November 23, 2009 / 9:21 PM / 9 years ago

Pfizer told to pay $28 mln damages in Prempro case

* Punitive damages on top of $6.3 mln compensatory damages

* Pfizer says to challenge verdicts

NEW YORK, Nov 23 (Reuters) - A Philadelphia jury on Monday ordered Pfizer Inc (PFE.N) to pay $28 million in punitive damages to a breast cancer survivor who had used the company’s hormone replacement drugs for 11 years.

That followed a $6.3 million award the jury ordered Pfizer to pay in compensatory damages on Friday after deciding that the drugs Premarin, Prempro and Provera contributed to her cancer, and that the drugmakers failed to adequately warn about the risks associated with the medicines.

Pfizer inherited hundreds of personal injury lawsuits involving Premarin and Prempro, which are used to counter the effects of menopause, with its recent $67 billion acquisition of Wyeth. Provera is sold by Pharmacia & Upjohn, which Pfizer acquired in 2003.

Pfizer, the world’s biggest drugmaker, said it would challenge the latest verdict and another earlier verdict that went against Wyeth.

The punitive damages in the earlier case, which were unsealed on Monday was $75 million on top of a nearly $4 million compensatory award.

After rendering its verdict along with the $6.3 million award on Friday, the 12-member jury in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas decided that the drugmakers’ actions or inactions equaled reckless disregard for plaintiff Donna Kendall’s health and came back with the larger punitive damages figure.

“Today signals a resounding victory for not only Donna Kendall, but for all women who suffered breast cancers at the hands of Wyeth and Upjohn,” Kendall’s attorney Tobi Millrood said.

“This jury sent Wyeth and (Pharmacia &) Upjohn a message loud and clear that their actions were reckless and they should not be conducting themselves in a way that puts greed in front of health,” Millrood added.

Pfizer said it was disappointed by the verdicts in this and the earlier case.

“The company believes that neither the awards of punitive damages nor the liability verdicts were supported by the evidence or the law. We plan to challenge both decisions in post-trial motions and, if necessary, through an appeal,” Pfizer spokesman Chris Loder said in a statement.

“The company stands by its belief that its subsidiaries acted responsibly by providing proper and accurate warnings regarding the hormone therapy medicines’ risks,” Loder added.

Kendall, 66, of Decatur, Illinois, had been taking Prempro as well as Provera for a total of 11 years when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2002.

Wyeth and Pharmacia & Upjohn have argued at trial that the drugs were approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and that known risks have long been included on the drugs’ labels. (Reporting by Bill Berkrot; editing by Carol Bishopric) ((bill.berkrot@thomsonreuters.com; +1 646 223-6030; Reuters Messaging: bill.berkrot.reuters.com@reuters.net))

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