In the wake of a Nevada jury’s recent $99 million punitive damages judgment against Wyeth Pharmaceuticals Inc., in L. Brocklin v. Wyeth, No. CV04-01701 (October, 15, 2007), Wyeth’s attorneys are vowing to appeal what they are calling an “aberration” in the various hormone replacement cases brought against the Madison, N.J.-based company.
The punitive damages award came on the heels of what initially appeared to be a victory for Wyeth. Earlier, the jury had reduced its compensatory damages award from $134.5 million to $35 million upon instructions from the trial court judge that the underlying award could not be used to punish Wyeth. The victory was short-lived, however, as the jury then made up the difference by its award of punitive damages.
The lawsuit was filed by three Nevada women who claim that Wyeth’s hormone replacement drugs, Premarin and Prempro, negligently caused their breast cancer. During the trial, Wyeth apparently argued that the drugs were safe and approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and that the women had other risk factors that made it impossible to link the drugs as the cause of the cancer.
News reports state that this case is the seventh to reach a verdict since the hormone replacement drug trials began last year, with Wyeth winning each of the prior cases at the trial court level. About 5,300 similar claims remain to be litigated against the pharmaceutical company, all involving the drugs Premarin and Prempro.