Prempro - Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT)
Twenty years ago, pharmaceutical giant Wyeth (later acquired by Pfizer) aggressively marketed the drug Prempro to menopausal women and to their doctors. Prempro gained widespread acceptance and achieved “blockbuster” status with over $2 billion in sales for Prempro and its sister drug Premarin. It became a billion-dollar franchise.
The drug featured on the cover of Newsweek and was heavily marketed featuring celebrities, such as model Lauren Hutton and singer Patty Labelle, promoting the drug’s benefits including the disappearance of hot flashes. Wyeth sales reps called offices of Obstetricians and Gynecologists nationwide, telling them that Prempro was a miracle drug and the answer to aging, hot flashes, osteoporosis, skin elasticity, heart health, vaginal dryness, vision loss, and more - all caused by the loss of estrogen during menopause. Scientific journals were used to publish pro-Prempro scientific journal papers, ghostwritten by Wyeth but published under the name of respected doctors who Wyeth had paid to associate their name. Wyeth marketers also reassured doctors that claims about breast cancer risk were unfounded.
All changed when the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI), a respected, very large, randomized clinical trial, reported a finding that Prempro increased the risk of breast cancer. Sales (and Wyeth’s stock price) plummeted - and cancer registries started to document breast cancer incidence drop nationwide, especially in estrogen-dependent cancers. Other studies reported that Prempro increased the risk of estrogen-dependent breast cancers by over 300% in current users who were on the medication for five or more years.
Over 10,000 women who had taken Prempro and developed estrogen dependent breast cancers filed lawsuits all over the country.
In prosecuting the individual cases, our lawyers tenaciously worked with experts in oncology, pathology, epidemiology, radiology, and FDA regulatory matters, and took or defended over 100 depositions. They also played an important role in helping thousands of other women with their cases. All cases that had been filed in federal courts throughout the country were consolidated for efficiency reasons in a “multi-district litigation” (MDL) where a federal judge in Little Rock, Arkansas presided over thousands of federal cases for pre-trial proceedings. In those MDL proceedings and in light of their expertise in science-oriented issues, Hausfeld attorneys were primarily responsible to work with expert witnesses in epidemiology and microbiology; write briefs to fend off defense challenges to the expert witnesses; and participate in negotiations which led to settlements on behalf of many of the women.
Hausfeld represented over 125 women in separate cases filed in state and federal courts around the country. Several of those cases went to trial, including one that resulted in $4 million in compensatory damages and $1.8 million in punitive damages. In that case, the trial judge issued a written decision stating that Wyeth had “engaged in a long-term campaign to muddy the waters regarding the risks posed by Prempro” and referred to their conduct as “reprehensible.”