Jennie Nelson, 67, of Dayton, Ohio, took Prempro for about six years, and believed it to be the cause of her breast cancer, for which she underwent a mastectomy, chemotherapy and radiation treatments.
The jury for the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas deliberated for 33 hours over six days to reach its verdict in favor of Nelson. The second phase of the trial -- in which the jury must decide if Wyeth failed to warn of the dangers of Prempro -- begins October 12.
Wyeth is currently facing roughly 5,000 lawsuits over its hormone replacement therapy (HRT) drugs. The jury in the first Prempro trial -- which concluded last month in Little Rock, Ark. -- found in favor of Wyeth, and said the company had not been negligent and had adequately warned patients and doctors of the cancer risk associated with the HRT drug.
The Philadelphia jury in Nelson's case could award additional punitive damages if it finds Wyeth was negligent in its warnings. However, if it finds that the company sufficiently warned patients, no damages will be paid by the company, including the damages awarded yesterday.
Nelson's lawsuit -- which charges that Wyeth was negligent in its testing, manufacture and marketing of its HRT drugs -- will be watched closely by the lawyers of the 5,000 other plaintiffs, according to Seton Hall Law School professor Howard Erichson.
"Lawyers all around the country are watching what happens in these cases to get a sense of whether Prempro plaintiffs have a chance of winning," Erichson said. He added that Nelson's verdict "will be read by other plaintiffs' lawyers as meaning they have a shot at a significant recovery."
Wyeth maintains its innocence, and says that the Philadelphia jury's verdict cannot be used to predict the results of future lawsuits. "We disagree that there is any scientific basis to support the jury's finding of a causal link between hormone replacement therapy and the plaintiff's breast cancer," said Wyeth spokesman Chris Garland.