Suit alleges HRT therapy caused breast cancer

Michelle Massey, East Texas Bureau Mar. 26, 2008, 8:28am

MARSHALL -- Tyler resident Brenda Simmons alleges her recent diagnosis of breast cancer is the result of eight years of hormone replacement therapy.

Simmons filed a product liability suit against hormone replacement manufacturers Wyeth, Pfizer, Pharmacia and UpJohn Inc. and Greenstone Ltd. on March 24, in the Marshall Division of the Eastern District of Texas.

The lawsuit is expected to be transferred to the pending multidistrict litigation in the Eastern District of Arkansas for discovery and pretrial proceedings (In re Prempro MDL 1507).

The drugs' manufacturers are involved in thousands of lawsuits regarding hormone replacement drugs. The companies deny all negligent claims and continuously argue that since first marketing the drugs, they carried warning labels regarding the heightened risk of breast cancer.

Wyeth has been refusing to settle any of its cases, with mixed results. Recently, Wyeth faced a loss as a Little Rock jury found that Wyeth inadequately warned of the risks associated with the drugs and that such failure proximately caused the plaintiff's breast cancer. The jury also found Wyeth's conduct constituted malice or reckless disregard and stated that Wyeth should pay the plaintiff over $19 million for punitive damages. The jury found UpJohn also liable for over $7 million in punitive damages.

In two previous cases in Arkansas federal courts, juries found that Wyeth did adequately warn patients and physicians of the increased risk of cancer and therefore were not negligent.

The hormone replacement drugs remain FDA-approved for treatment of menopause and post menopausal osteoporosis.

Simmons states that while under a doctor's care she began taking Premarin, Prempro, and/or its generic equivalent in 1998. After eight years of constant hormone replacement therapy and routine mammograms, a biopsy of Simmon's breast revealed cancer, the original complaint states.

According to court records, "the plaintiff in this lawsuit will prove that these hormone drugs were unreasonably dangerous for any long-term use, and that Defendants promoted synthetic hormone drug therapy without conducting appropriate long-term, clinical trials to support their claims. The plaintiff will further prove that Wyeth pushed hormone therapy onto the medical community, without sufficient warnings. Had Wyeth acted appropriately, thousands of women nationwide, and Plaintiff Brenda Simmons herein, would not have been injured by these drugs."

The lawsuit asserts the defendants are liable for claims of fraudulent concealment, negligence, design defect, failure to warn, corporate responsibility, breach of express warranty and fraud.

Simmons is seeking damages for severe conscious pain and suffering, untold physical disfigurement, embarrassment, mental anguish, loss of confidence, shortened life, lost economic benefits, medical expenses and punitive damages.

Tyler attorney Jeffrey T. Embry of the Hossley Embry, L.L.P law firm is representing the plaintiff.

Judge David Folsom has referred the case to Magistrate Judge Charles Everingham.

Case No. 2:08cv00126

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