Skip to Content

Eli Lilly Settles DES Cancer Lawsuit

From UPI Top Stories (January 10, 2013)

Drug manufacturer Eli Lilly has settled a lawsuit in Boston alleging a drug marketed to pregnant women decades ago caused four sisters to get breast cancer.

The suit, watched closely by drug companies and patient advocacy groups, alleged four of five sisters in the Melnick family got breast cancer because their mother took DES, a commonly prescribed drug from the 1930s through 1970 that was said to prevent miscarriages. The four women each were diagnosed with breast cancer in their 40s and none could give birth. A fifth sister who was carried to term without their mother taking DES is cancer-free and has had children.

Health experts said women whose mothers took DES are at elevated risk for vaginal, cervical and breast cancer, and in many cases cannot have children of their own, the Boston Globe said.

The FDA stopped allowing the drug to be prescribed to pregnant women in 1971.

Eli Lilly maintained after the settlement for an undisclosed amount of money that DES was not to blame for the sisters’ medical problems.

"While we continue to ­believe that Lilly’s medication did not cause the conditions ­alleged in the lawsuit, we believe the settlement is in the best interest of the company," a statement said. "Settling this trial helps us get back to what we want to focus on as a company: developing important new medications through research and partnerships with doctors and patients."

The plaintiffs could not be reached for comment.

Posted: January 2013