I recently summarized Singleton v. Wyeth, a round in the plaintiffs' thus far successful war against Prempro, Wyeth's (now Pfizer's) postmenopausal hormonal replacement therapy. Well, hot on the heels's of that victory comes a defense verdict in another case from Philadelphia. After only six hours of deliberation, a Philadelphia jury unanimously returned a defense verdict Wednesday in Foust v. Wyeth, a lawsuit alleging that a hormone replacement therapy drug caused breast cancer in an Indiana woman who died of the disease. The jury did find that Wyeth failed to adequately warn of the risks of breast cancer, but it determined that the decedent already had the disease. Apparently the fact that her identical twin also took Prempro but did not develop cancer weighed on the jury, though it is unclear to me why this affects the causation issue.
Wyeth of course responded to the verdict by noting that, "Many risk factors associated with breast cancer have been identified, but science cannot establish what role any particular risk factor or combination play in any individual woman's breast cancer."
This victory may be a pyrrhic one for Wyeth. Philadelphia juries have awarded as much as $75 million in punitive damages in the nine other HRT cases to have reached verdict -- many have resulted in punitive damages for "wanton" negligence under Pennsylvania law. Every plaintiff's verdict has or will be appealed by Wyeth, and there are 1500 suits still pending in the City of Brotherly Love, a forum clearly preferred by plaintiffs. This suit took four weeks to try. It's very hard to see how Prempro can survive this water torture. Will it go the way of Bendectin?