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Shezad Malik MD JD
Shezad Malik MD JD
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Pfizer Prempro Breast Cancer Settlements Reached

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Pfizer, the pharmaceutical giant, has announced that an additional $68 million will be set aside to allow the drug maker to settle nearly half of the 10,000 Prempro breast cancer lawsuits filed against it.

The announcement came in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing by the drug maker. The $68 million is an addition to the $772 million the company announced earlier this year to settle one-third of the cases. Pfizer indicates that it hopes the remaining 5,000 cases can be resolved with a set-aside of another $260 million in the first nine months of 2012.

The new Prempro breast cancer settlements comes shortly after a Philadelphia jury pounded Pfizer with a $72.6 million verdict in a Prempro case brought by three women who alleged that the hormone treatment caused them to develop cancer. The jury was about to decide whether punitive damages should be awarded, which could have multiplied that verdict amount, when Pfizer and the women announced that a confidential settlement was reached in the case.

Prempro contains a combination of the drugs Provera and Premarin, which boost hormone levels in women undergoing menopause or in postmenopausal women. Known as hormone replacement therapy, or HRT, the drugs are designed to provide relief from symptoms such as hot flashes, irregular menstruation or weight gain.

About 10,000 Prempro suits have been filed against Pfizer’s subsidiaries, all involving similar allegations that the drug makers failed to adequately research the side effects of Prempro or warn that the medication may increase the risk of breast cancer.

Most of the complaints were filed after a 2002 study by the National Institutes of Health found that women receiving HRT were at a higher risk of breast cancer, strokes and heart attacks. By that time, Prempro and other HRT drugs had been used by more than 6 million women.

A number of Prempro trials have resulted in multi-million dollar compensatory awards against the drug maker and even larger punitive damage awards after juries determined that Wyeth intentionally hid the risk of breast cancer from Prempro.