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Pfizer Sued for Breast Cancer Link to Menopause Meds... Again

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It's not the first time it's happened, but this latest lawsuit against Pfizer's menopause drugs, Provera, Premarin and Prempro, delivered a stinging blow to the pharmaceutical giant. The damages were punitive -- only $1.5 million awarded to Merle Simon after the company's hormone replacement drugs used to treat her hot flashes and night sweats were found to cause breast cancer. In the recent past, they've been known to shell out sums greater than $70 million for similar cases.

What stands out from this case however, is that Pfizer almost got off scot-free. In a back and forth jumble of verdicts, Simon initially won the case in May of 2007. A few months later, a Philadelphia Common Pleas Court judge revoked the ruling on the grounds that Simon should have sued Pfizer earlier.

That might have held some ground, except that the Women's Health Initiative -- the largest, most comprehensive study to date looking at the effects of hormone replacement therapy in menopausal women -- only recently (2002) announced a suspected connection to breast cancer. Simon had been using the hormones for an entire decade before this announcement and was initially granted compensation only five years after the study's release.

The case was finally retried before a Pennsylvania Superior Court last week Thursday, where a three-judge panel reversed the ruling, for a second time. The panel stated that it was unreasonable for any woman using hormone replacement before the WHI study's release to predict this cancerous link.

Pfizer, meanwhile, is standing behind its products, saying that Upjohn, the company that was previously responsible for Provera and that was acquired by Pfizer last October, acted responsibly.

Perhaps what's most concerning about this series of lawsuits however, is that Simon's case likely represents the tip of the iceberg. Simon's lawyer, Jim Morris, stated in an interview with Bloomberg that Philadelphia courts have, in the past, thrown out several similar cases for breast cancer settlements. This means that numerous women who had previously lost their cases may now be entitled to revision.

Even more alarming, are the cases to come. Bloomberg estimates that more than 6 million women have used hormone replacement for perimenopausal symptoms, many of them before the news of a breast cancer link.

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Add a Comment4 Comments

EmpowHER Guest

Synthetic hormone therapy is a dangerous method when dealing with menopause. My wife had uncontrollable symptoms and found bioidentical hormone therapy after extensive research. She has completed 6 months now and has seen significant improvement with all her symptoms. Do the research and see what treatment is best for you.

January 7, 2010 - 11:07am
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Anonymous)

I recently read an article about the drugs Premarin and Provera and they mentioned bioidentical hormone theray and said that it's currently the most effective treatment available for symptoms of menopause. If you don't mind me asking, how old is your wife? I'm only 36 and I'm ALREADY feeling like I'm losing it! I'm pretty sure that I'm a bit young for menopause, but whenever I do a Google search for what I'm experiencing, everything leads back to menopause!

January 7, 2010 - 7:01pm
Expert HERWriter Guide Blogger (reply to Anonymous)

Hi Anon - What you may be dealing with is perimenopause - the period of time in which your body starts making the transition to menopause. While the average age at which women experience this is in their mid-40's, perimenopause does occur in women in their mid to late 30's too. This period of time can be lengthy, lasting from two to eight years, and hormonal fluctuations during this time can cause very irregular periods.

For most women perimenopause is a gradual transition period, and there's no one test or specific symptom that definitely says you've entered this phase of your life. Have you talked to your health care provider about this? Your physician or gynecologist can review your menstrual history and the symptoms you're experiencing to help determine whether you're in perimenopause. Sometimes hormone tests are done.

So, no, you're not losing it. :-) Here's additional information on perimenopause from the Mayo Clinic's health library.


Will you let us know what your doctor says and keep in touch? We'd love to hear from you again.
Take care,

January 11, 2010 - 5:58pm
Expert HERWriter Guide Blogger

Hi Jennifer - Thanks for bringing this to our attention - I hadn't seen this story in the mainstream media. Perhaps $1.5 million isn't considered significant enough to warrant major attention. It will be interesting to watch the results as future cases come forward as this treatment of women's health should never be forgotten. Take care, Pat

January 6, 2010 - 6:24pm
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.


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