In 2008, one Donna Scroggin in Arkansas won a claim against two of Pfizer, Inc.’s units: Wyeth and Upjohn. Since 1989, she had taken Prempro, Premarin, and Provera, three hormone replacement drugs, for treating menopause symptoms. Her lawsuit claimed that the drug companies (they were not then owned by Pfizer) should have warned users more clearly that the three drugs could possibly cause breast cancer.
The Original Lawsuit
She was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2000 and won $2.7 million in her lawsuit. The jury found that the drug companies had acted inappropriately in their marketing of the three drugs. In a separate part of the case, the jury deliberated on punitive damages and awarded her $27.1 million over and above the $2.7 million.
There was an issue over whether Scroggin had filed within the two-year statute of limitations. She argued that she had because she did not know until July 2004, when a Women’s Health Initiative study was published, that her cancer might be related to the drugs.
Wyeth and Upjohn counter-argued that their drugs did not contribute to Scroggin’s cancer because she had many pre-existing risk factors for breast cancer and since there was available information before 2004 about the cancer risk, her filing was past the statute of limitations.
Wyeth and Upjohn appealed the punitive damages verdict and the appeals court dismissed Upjohn’s punitive damages of $7.7 million. It also ordered a new trial for Wyeth’s punitive damages. Wyeth appealed, arguing that the new trial should cover all aspects of the case, including the issue of whether the drugs had contributed to Scroggin’s cancer.
This week, however, the Supreme Court rejected Wyeth’s (Pfizer’s) appeal and let the lower court’s ruling stand.
- “While we are disappointed with the court’s decision, it does not change the prior ruling by the appeals court, which affirmed the dismissal of punitive damages as to Upjohn and ordered a new trial on punitive damages for Wyeth,” Pfizer said in a statement.
Prempro, Premarin, and Provera are still on the market, with warnings about possible breast cancer, although Wyeth is facing about 8,000 lawsuits about them. According to his statement, Scroggin’s lawyer is now “looking forward to asking another jury to decide the extent of Wyeth’s wrongful conduct.”
While Prempro, Premarin, and Provera may or may not be defective drugs in themselves, Wyeth may have marketed them inappropriately or labeled them inadequately. These issues will no doubt be in the news for years to come.