Hormone Replacement and Breast Cancer: Wyeth Gets Whacked

PointofLaw.com

Posted by Michael Krauss at 6:53 AM

February 23, 2010

Low doses of Wyeth’s Prempro, a combination of both kinds of female hormones, progesterones and estrogen, have been proven to relieve hot flashes, night sweats, and vaginal symptoms of menopause. But does Hormone Replacement Therapy cause breast cancer? This is a controversial question. The well-regarded Toronto Breast Cancer Study reported that women who received HRT for less than 15 years are not at increased risk of breast cancer. On the other hand a New Zealand study suggested that women taking may be at higher risk for breast cancer during the first 5 years, but therapy for more than 5 years confers no increased risk of breast cancer. Then the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) study found an increased risk of heart attacks, stroke, breast cancer, blood clots, and pulmonary emboli (blood clots in the lungs) in postmenopausal women (50-79 years old) who took progesterone in combination with estrogens for 5 years. The WHI study received national notoriety because it was discontinued early because of its finding that HRT correlated to an increased risk of invasive breast cancer and other health problems. The study found that among those taking Prempro-like hormone replacement therapy, the rate of breast cancer was 38 per 10,000 women per year. Among those taking placebo, the rate was 30 per 10,000 women per year.

This study has now cost Wyeth, the producer of Prempro, over $9 million. In Singleton v. Wyeth, a Philadelphia jury decided that Wyeth should pay $6 million in punitive damages and $3.45 million in compensatory damages for failing to adequately warn a patient and her doctor about the increased risk of breast cancer. Here’s the law.com summary of the case.

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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.