Inc. agreed to pay about $330 million to resolve claims that its Prempro
menopause drug caused breast cancer, in the first large-scale settlements in
eight years of litigation, two people familiar with the accords said.
Pfizer, the world’s largest drugmaker, will settle more than 2,200 lawsuits
alleging the company’s Wyeth unit hid Prempro’s cancer risks, the people said.
They spoke on the condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to
speak publicly about the accords. The cases settled for an average of about
$150,000, the people said.
“The reported settlement terms are not accurate and beyond that, we do not
comment on our litigation strategy,” Chris Loder, a spokesman for New
York-based Pfizer, said in a telephone interview today.
The settlements may be a signal that Pfizer is moving to resolve
long-standing litigation issues as part of its recent management change, said Les Funtleyder, a fund manager at Miller
Tabak & Co. in New York
who follows the pharmaceutical industry. Ian Read replaced Jeffrey Kindler as
Pfizer’s chief executive officer in December.
The hormone-replacement therapy “litigation has been going on for a long
time,” Funtleyder said in a Feb. 4 interview. “The new management may be
interested in clearing out these old issues and moving forward.”
Pfizer fell 11 cents to $19.05 in New York Stock Exchange composite trading
after dropping as much as 1.6 percent earlier in the day. The shares have risen
8.8 percent this year.
6 Million Users
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,
exceeded $2 billion before the release of the Women’s Health Initiative, a National Institutes of
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 completed
its $68 billion purchase of Wyeth in 2009.
The drugmaker faced more than 10,000 claims that its menopause drugs caused breast cancer prior the
settlements, which were reached during the past five months, the people said.
That number included more than 8,000 cases consolidated in federal court in
Arkansas and other cases in state courts in Pennsylvania,
Nevada and Minnesota.
The cases were gathered together before U.S. District Judge Billy Roy Wilson
in Little Rock, Arkansas, in 2003 for pre-trial information exchanges before
Pfizer officials said in a statement last month that Wilson recently handed
down a ruling that may knock out a number of suits filed by women who took
Prempro for less than three years.
The Women’s Health Initiative study found that women who took Prempro for
more than five years faced an increased risk of breast cancer, heart attack and
stroke. Plaintiffs’ lawyers had argued that other studies showed women who took
the pills for three years or less also were at risk for those ailments.
Pfizer’s Wyeth and Upjohn units have lost eight of the 15 Prempro cases
decided by juries since trials began in 2006. The drugmaker got some of the
verdicts thrown out after trial or had the awards cut. The company has appealed
its losses. Wyeth also has won dismissals of more than 3,000 cases prior to
The company resolved a handful of cases before the recent wave of
settlements, including an Arkansas woman’s claims that Prempro caused her
breast cancer. In 2008, an Arkansas jury ordered Wyeth to pay a total of $29.8
million to Donna Scroggin over her injuries linked to the drug.
An appeals court ordered a new trial and the drugmaker settled the case
before it began. Terms of the agreement weren’t made public.
Earlier this week, a Pennsylvania
appeals court ordered Pfizer to pay more than $10 million in damages to a woman
who blamed her cancer on Prempro after it reinstated a 2007 verdict against the
Pfizer’s attorneys began negotiating with lawyers representing former
Prempro users last summer to resolve their inventories of cases, the people
familiar with the settlements said. Sheila Burnbaum, a lawyer at New York’s Skadden,
Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP, led Pfizer’s negotiating team, the people
Plaintiffs’ lawyers who settled their Prempro cases include Robert
Schwartz, of Bailey & Galyen in Houston; James A. Morris Jr., a sole practitioner in Austin, Texas; Stephen A. Corr of Mellon Webster
& Shelly in Doylestown, Pennsylvania; and Stuart
Calwell of the Calwell Practice PLLC in Charleston, West Virginia, the people
Schwartz declined to comment on the settlements in a telephone interview.
Corr, Calwell and Morris didn’t immediately return calls for comment.
The majority of the cases settled had been consolidated in federal court in Arkansas, the people familiar
with the accords said. A judge in state court in Philadelphia last month said
that about 450 cases in her court had been settled by the company, the people
Pfizer is scheduled to face its next Prempro trial in April in state court
in Florida. The family of Loretta Esposito blames the drug for her fatal breast
cancer and contends Wyeth officials sold Prempro knowing it posed an increased
risk of the disease.
Miller Tabak’s Funtleyder said Pfizer officials may seek to negotiate other
Prempro settlements to put an end to the five- year run of trials over the
“It’s really important they get rid of all these litigation issues so they
can move forward with their strategy,” he said.
The consolidated case in Arkansas is In Re Prempro Products,
03-CV-015070-WRW, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Arkansas (Little
Rock). The Scroggin case is Scroggin v. Wyeth, 04-1169, U.S. District Court,
Eastern District of Arkansas Little
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Pfizer’s Wyeth and Upjohn
units have lost eight of the 15 Prempro cases decided by juries since trials
began in 2006, although the company has had several verdicts dismissed after
trial or had awards reduced. The drugmaker has also won dismissals of more than
3000 cases prior to trial. from http://www.firstwordplus.com/Fws.do?articleid=A26178BBF7E4491BA3F4217A1B75C880