Drug manufacturer, Pfizer, has been hit with $103 million in two punitive damage awards in pharmaceutical liability cases involving Prempro, a hormone replacement drug made by Wyeth, which was recently acquired by Pfizer. According to a news report in the Philadelphia Inquirer, the drug was linked to breast cancer in the victims. The total damages include $28 million awarded to Donna Kendall, an Illinois woman. In another case, a judge this week unsealed a verdict reached earlier this year where a jury awarded $75 million in punitive damages to another Illinois resident, Connie Barton, who was afflicted with breast cancer as a result of taking Prempro, which was used to treat menopause symptoms including hot flashes, night sweats and mood swings.

Verdicts Send Strong Message to Corporations

These are landmark verdicts not only because of the monetary amount attached to them, but because juries are sending a message to corporate America that they are not going to tolerate substandard or defective products any more. Of course, what consumers believe has no bearing on what Pfizer believes. Company spokespersons have already announced that they will be appealing these verdicts and that the awards of the punitive damages and the liability verdicts were not “supported by the evidence or the law.”

That type of statement is very typical of industry giants who will deny their liability, no matter how defective the product, no matter how many lives they have claimed or the seriousness of the personal injuries caused. In these cases, there is no question that Wyeth put large profits over the safety of the consumers who suffered devastating consequences.

Our Civil Justice System Works

If the juries were outraged, they had a perfectly good reason to be outraged. Patients who took Prempro have received punitive damages in 40 other cases. That in itself shows that juries in different parts of the country were convinced that Wyeth hid the risks of breast cancer from doctors and patients.

The scary thing is — Prempro is still in the market and millions of patients, who are unaware of these serious drug side effects take them every day. Prempro’s annual sales exceeded $2 billion before a study in 2002 released by the Women’s Health Initiative suggested that women using hormone replacement therapy were at higher risk to get breast cancer. Knowing what we know today about these drugs and the serious personal injuries they have the potential to cause, it is outrageous that Prempro and other such drugs are still in the market. These verdicts are indeed a victory for the common man and further evidence that our civil justice system works. I commend these juries for making the right decision based on the facts and holding these corporations accountable for their wrongdoing.

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