Do Hormone Drugs Cause Cancer? First Federal Court Trial Set For July
On July 9, 2002 a major study of hormone-replacement drugs for menopausal women was halted after finding a possible association between the hormone drugs and breast cancer as well as dangerous blood clots. Premarin, Prempro, and Provera -- the leading hormone-replacement drugs -- were so widely prescribed that those drugs were usually among the top-selling prescription drugs in the U.S. each year — until the 2002 study was released.
The drug companies responded to the hysteria which resulted thereafter by attacking the underlying study. They contended the hormone therapy study was flawed for various reasons, including but not limited to: many of the women were in their 60s or 70s; many of the women were smokers; and, many of the women had high blood pressure or other risk factors for cancer and vascular disease. Furthermore, the drug companies alleged that the findings of the 2002 study, in fact, were not new. According to Wyeth's senior corporate counsel, Mark Lynch, "That information had been on the Prempro label since 1995".
Others, however, disagreed with the drug companies' assertions. Those critics argued that the drug companies had not disclosed to doctors and their patients how much of an increase there was for breast cancer from using hormone replacement therapy.
In turn, since July 2002, approximately 3,600 hormone replacement therapy ("HRT") lawsuits have been filed against Wyeth, Upjohn, Pfizer Inc. and other companies over the various estrogen drugs which women took to ease menopausal symptoms. The cases allege a link between the hormone pills and serious health concerns.
Most of the 3,000 HRT lawsuits were filed in federal courts around the country and have been consolidated before U.S. District Judge William Wilson Jr., in Little Rock, Ark., by means of the Multi-district Litigation ("MDL") procedural mechanism. Several hundred other HRT cases have been filed in New Jersey state courts and in the Pennsylvania state court system.
The first federal court HRT drug trial is tentatively set to start in July 2006.
Despite this relatively large number of lawsuits alleging injury and death, Premarin, Prempro, and Provera remain on the market, and apparently deemed safe and effective by the FDA. Moreover, although sales have declined dramatically since the 2002 study-release hysteria, doctors wrote more than 40 million prescriptions for the HRT pills in 2004.
(Posted by: Tom Lamb)