Retired School Teacher Wins $4 million after Developing Breast Cancer from HRT

[Leslie Carol Botha: It took 30 years before funds could be raised for an independent study on HRT – and now hundred’s of post-menopausal women are developing breast cancer and filing lawsuits?  Does this sound like good medicine to you?]

Ex-Principal Wins $4 Million Verdict Against Drug Maker

Hundreds of women have filed suits claiming menopausal treatment causes breast cancer

Connecticut Law Tribune
April 30, 2012
By CHRISTIAN NOLAN

Margaret B. Fraser and Joseph T. Fraser v. Wyeth Inc. and Wyeth Pharmaceuticals Inc.: A retired elementary school principal and her husband recovered $4 million after a federal jury in Connecticut decided that the woman developed breast cancer as a result of taking a menopause drug.

According to the lead plaintiffs lawyer, this was the first of several expected trials in Connecticut focusing on the drug Prempro. A trial is expected to start in U.S. District Court in Connecticut in May for the estate of a woman who died from breast cancer after taking the drug.

“I’ve got about 100 individual cases and jointly prosecuted matters” nationwide, said Gregory J. Bubalo, of Bubalo Rotman in Louisville, Ky.

Bubalo said Prempro, manufactured by Wyeth Inc., is a combination of two hormones, estrogen and progestin, and is used in the treatment of menopausal symptoms. The drug is one of several used in what’s called hormone replacement therapy, or HRT, whose purpose is to replace the female hormones the body no longer produces because of menopause. Prempro was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 1994 and has remained on the market ever since.

The drug, which is still on the market, was largely prescribed from 1992 to 2002, said Bubalo, until a study by the Women’s Health Initiative highlighted its link to cancer. The label for the drug indicated that it could be prescribed for menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes, vaginal atrophy and the prevention of osteoporosis.

“Epidemiologists basically have concluded that Hormone Replacement Therapy was responsible for up to 200,000 excess breast cancers in the decade from 1992 to 2002, when HRT was among the best-selling drugs in America,” said Bubalo. He said the American Cancer Society then wrote in its Breast Cancer Facts & Figures “that hormone positive breast cancer rates dropped for postmenopausal women after many women stopped using HRT in 2002.”

Nevertheless, defense lawyers for the Pfizer-owned drug company have argued that, despite the studies, there’s no way to directly connect any individual woman’s breast cancer to the drug. The lawyers also argue that the pharmaceutical company adequately warned users on the label of Prempro of the risk it could cause breast cancer.

Bubalo’s first Connecticut client to win a verdict against Wyeth is Margaret “Maggie” Fraser, 65, of Lakeville.

The attorney said Fraser began taking Prempro in the mid-1990s, when she was about 50 years old. Her gynecologist prescribed it after Fraser began experiencing hot flashes. Fraser, according to court documents, testified that she continued taking the drug because “it was working… and because my doctor felt it was safe.” Advertisements for the drug at that time also “enhanced” her decision to keep taking it.

Fraser continued taking Prempro until Sept. 11, 2001, when a mammogram revealed abnormal results. A biopsy was performed and in October 2001 she was diagnosed with cancer. The next month, a lumpectomy was performed on Fraser’s left breast. After that came six months of chemotherapy and then radiation therapy. She took cancer medications for five years after the radiation therapy.

Treatments killed the skin on her breast and she’s had three different breast reconstruction surgeries over a five- or six-year period, said Bubalo.

“She still has scars,” the plaintiffs attorney said. “She fortunately is cancer-free right now. If she ever has a recurrence, she’ll likely die. So she’ll be seeing her cancer doctor for the rest of her life.”

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Author: Leslie Carol Botha

Author, publisher, radio talk show host and internationally recognized expert on women's hormone cycles. Social/political activist on Gardasil the HPV vaccine for adolescent girls. Co-author of "Understanding Your Mood, Mind and Hormone Cycle." Honorary advisory board member for the Foundation for the Study of Cycles and member of the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research.