July 24, 2012 — A Pennsylvania appeals court has decided that Pfizer, Inc. must pay Audrey Singleton $10.4 million to settle a Prempro lawsuit.
Singleton developed breast cancer after taking Prempro for several years, and she accuses Pfizer’s Wyeth unit of downplaying and hiding risk information. A jury awarded Singleton the $10.4 million judgement back in 2010, but Pfizer appealed the decision as excessive. The Pennsylvania appeals court disagreed, and the $10.4 million judgement will stand.
The appeals court judges said in their decision, “Wyeth’s concerted effort to misdirect physicians from the dangers of Prempro illustrates the consciousness that its conduct was not at all reasonable.”
Back in 2010, a Philadelphia jury found that she deserved $3.4 million in compensatory damages, and an additional $6 million in punitive damages. A judge added another $1 million in interest on top of that, for a total of $10.4 million. Pfizer said the punitive damages were excessive, but the appeals court disagreed, saying “There is nothing in the record that illustrates the $6 million punitive damages award was grossly excessive as to shock our sense of justice.”
Pfizer acquired Wyeth in 2009, amid the drug scandal. The drug company is currently in the process of settling more than 10,000 lawsuits over side effects of Wyeth’s menopause drugs. Approximately 60% of the cases have already been resolved, costing Pfizer nearly $900 million. Pfizer has set aside another $330 million to resolve the remaining lawsuits.
Prempro is a hormone replacement therapy that combines estrogen-based Premarin with progestin-based Provera. It has been widely used since 1995 to treat the uncomfortable symptoms of menopause, including hot flashes and mood swings. Unfortunately, research has also linked it to an increased risk of breast cancer, and found that these cancers were more likely to spread to the lymph nodes and cause death. Although the drug’s label included the risk of breast cancer, thousands of women accuse Wyeth of downplaying the risk of cancer.