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Wyeth Hormone Drug Case Opens In Philadelphia

Wyeth Hormone Drug Case Opens In Philadelphia [The Philadelphia Inquirer]

From Philadelphia Inquirer (PA) (July 28, 2010)

July 28--Before a packed house in a shoe box of a City Hall courtroom Tuesday, attorneys Rainey Booth and Beth A. Wilkinson offered opposing views of Prempro, a hormonal replacement drug that has been linked to breast cancer.

Booth told a Philadelphia jury that over the coming weeks he and his team will show that the drug made by Wyeth was among the causes of the breast cancer developed by Sharon Buxley, 66, a Tennessee resident formerly of Allentown, and Joy Henry, 75, of Harrisburg.

Wilkinson, a former federal prosecutor representing Wyeth, countered there were no direct links between the drug and the cancers, and no science to support Booth’s contentions.

The trial before Common Pleas Judge James Murray Lynn is the latest court test for Prempro and Wyeth, which is now a subsidiary of Pfizer Inc.

The drug, which combines the hormones estrogen and progestin, was widely used from 1995 to 2002 to treat menopause symptoms including hot flashes, night sweats, and mood swings.

In 2002, however, a federal study of 10,000 women linked Prempro to higher rates of heart attacks, breast cancer, and other problems.

Since the study, thousands of suits have been filed against Wyeth and Pfizer by women who had used Prempro and another hormone replacement drug, Premarin. Wyeth, in a 2009 regulatory filing, reported it faced 8,000 Prempro suits.

According to Joshua Wenderoff, spokesman for Wyeth, the drug maker has been successful in 26 of 31 cases that have reached trial stage. Those in which it has been unsuccessful have proved hugely expensive, however.

In February, for instance, a Philadelphia jury awarded $9.45 million to an Alabama woman who claimed Prempro caused her breast cancer.

Last year, Philadelphia juries awarded $100 million to women in two separate cases involving Prempro.

In the case before Lynn on Tuesday, both sides presented their opening statements.

Booth, a trial attorney from Florida, told the jurors that they would hear evidence that would show the Prempro "promoted" the cancers that Buxton and Henry developed by triggering rapid growth of both healthy and abnormal cells. The spread of the abnormal cells, he said, was the ultimate root of cancers in the women, both of whom were in court.

Wilkinson, who as a U.S. attorney prosecuted the Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, told the jury the evidence would show there is no simple explanation for any cancer, including those suffered by Buxton and Henry. And there was no evidence to link the women’s condition to Prempro, which remains on the market and continues to be prescribed by doctors, she said.

"While we have great sympathy for Mrs. Buxton, Mrs. Henry, and their families, the facts in these two cases do not support their claims for damages as a result of their use of hormone therapy," Wyeth said in a statement Monday.

The case is expected to last four to eight weeks.

Contact staff writer Christopher K. Hepp at 215-854-2208 or

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Posted: July 2010