Hormone Replacement Drugs Linked to Cancer

(August 23, 2011) A West Virginia federal judge recently denied Wyeth Inc., and Pharmacia & Upjohn Co. (drug makers of Premarin, Prempro and Provera) summary judgment on their claims of merchantability and design defect in a case of developing breast cancer after ingesting hormone replacement treatment drugs.

Leah Royce Hines of W.Virginia sued Wyeth Pharmaceuticals, Inc. and Pharmacia & Upjohn Company in a pharmaceutical products liability action suit.   Ms. Hines alleges that she developed breast cancer after ingesting hormone replacement therapy (HRT) drugs.  HRT is composed of estrogen and progestin used in the treatment of menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes, mood swings, night sweats and vaginal dryness. Studies from the late 1970s and early 1980s suggested that prolonged use could lead to increased risks of uterine cancer.  Later studies suggested the combination of progestin with estrogen could significantly lower this risk, however, many publications found that it also could increase the risk of breast cancer.

In the late 1980s Ms. Hines’doctors prescribed HRT drugs to treat her menopausal symptoms, which she stated gave her significant relief.   Although the HRT drugs contained warnings regarding breast cancer risk, Ms. Hines stated they were “inadequate” and she relied  on her doctor to weigh the risks and benefits prior to prescribing HRT.

Ms. Hines was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1999.  In July, 2004 she filed an action against defendants for their negligence, liability (design defect and failure to warn about risks) and breach of implied warranties.

Plaintiff identified a safer alternative in oral micronized progesterone (“OMP”), which is non-synthetic or “natural” progestin drug as opposed to the synthetic HRT drugs she claims caused her breast cancer.   OMP is not known to increase breast cancer risks when used in combination with estrogen.  Since OMP has been widely available since the 1980s, Ms. Hines should have been offered this as a safer alternative in treating her menopausal symptoms.  Why would these drug companies choose to use synthetic progestin when they were completely aware of the increased risks of breast cancer versus the safer, natural OMP makes no sense.    They are dealing with human life and should be held accountable for their greed.   The pharmaceutical company’s motions were denied.

If you or a loved one developed breast cancer following hormone replacement therapy, please stop by our website and feel free to leave us comments on our Facebook page. You can also contact one of our attorneys at 1-800-246-4878.

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