Dec. 9 (Bloomberg) -- Pfizer Inc., the world’s largest drugmaker, agreed to settle claims that its menopause drugs caused cancer in three women who won a $72.6 million jury award earlier this week, a lawyer said.
The New York-based company agreed to resolve claims by Susan Elfont, Bernadette Kalenkoski and Judy Mulderig that hormone-replacement drugs made by two Pfizer units caused their breast cancer, Ted Meadows, a lawyer for the women, said in an interview yesterday. A Philadelphia jury awarded the three women $72.6 million in compensatory damages on Dec. 6.
“They’re just glad to be able to go on with their lives,” said Meadows, who declined to disclose the amounts of the settlements because they are confidential.
The accord comes a day before jurors were to begin hearing testimony in a second phase of the case. The panel would have been asked to decide whether Pfizer should face punitive damages over its handling of the menopause drugs.
“The parties have entered into a mutual agreement to resolve this case under confidential terms,” Chris Loder, a Pfizer spokesman, said in a telephone interview. The earlier verdict will be set aside as part of the settlement, 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.
Pfizer’s Wyeth and Upjohn units have now lost 10 of the 18 Prempro cases decided by juries since trials began in 2006. The 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.
Pfizer announced in May that it had settled a third of the pending Prempro cases and had set aside $772 million to help resolve the claims.
Elfont, 66, is a former teacher who once lived in Northeast Philadelphia, Tobi Millrood, a lawyer for the three women, said during the trial. She took Premarin and Provera for more than two years before being diagnosed with breast cancer in 1997, Millrood said. She now lives in California.
Kalenkoski, 68, is a former nursing home aide who took Prempro for more than four years and was diagnosed with cancer in 2002, Millrood said. Mulderig, 68, a retired teacher from Carlisle, Pennsylvania, took Premarin and Provera for 11 years starting in 1988, the lawyer said.
The last Prempro verdict against the Pfizer units came a year ago in Puerto Rico, where a jury awarded $1.5 million in damages to a pharmacist who took the menopause drug. The company won the next two cases before yesterday’s verdict.
In another case, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court decided Dec. 5 that it would hear Pfizer’s appeal of an $8.6 million punitive damage award to another woman who sued over Prempro- linked breast cancer.
The Philadelphia case that settled is Elfont v. Wyeth Pharmaceuticals Inc., 00924, Jury Term 2004, Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas (Philadelphia).
--With assistance from Christopher Yasiejko in New York and Phil Milford in Wilmington, Delaware. Editors: Stephen Farr, Glenn Holdcraft
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