Quoted from http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/13/business/13drug.html
Menopause, as Brought to You by Big Pharma
- By NATASHA SINGER and DUFF WILSON
- Published: December 12, 2009
MILLIONS of American women in the 1990s were told they could help their bodies ward off major illness by taking menopausal hormone drugs. Some medical associations said so. Many gynecologists and physicians said so. Respected medical journals said so, too.
Along the way, television commercials positioned hormone drugs as treatments for more than hot flashes and night sweats — just two of the better-known symptoms of menopause, which is technically defined as commencing one year after a woman’s last menstrual cycle.
One commercial about estrogen loss by the drug maker Wyeth featured a character named Dr. Heartman in a white coat discussing research into connections between menopause and heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease and blindness.
“When considering menopause, consider the entire body of evidence,” Dr. Heartman said. “Speak to your doctor about what you can do to help protect your health during and after menopause.”
Connie Barton, then a medical office assistant in Peoria, Ill., was one woman who responded to such messages. She says she took Prempro, a hormone drug made by Wyeth, from 1997, when she was 53, until 2002, when she received a diagnosis of breast cancer. As part of her cancer treatment, she had a mastectomy to remove her left breast.
Now Ms. Barton, who said in an interview that she used Prempro in part because her doctor told her it could help prevent heart disease and dementia, is one of more than 13,000 people who have sued Wyeth over the last seven years, claiming in courts across the country that its menopause drugs caused breast cancer and other problems.
The suits also assert, based on recently unsealed court documents, that Wyeth oversold the benefits of menopausal hormones and failed to properly warn of the risks.
In October, a jury in a Pennsylvania state court awarded Ms. Barton $75 million in punitive damages from Wyeth on top of compensatory damages of $3.75 million.