Pfizer Sets Aside $772 Million, Settles One-Third of Prempro Drug Cases

Bloomberg

By Jef Feeley – May 12, 2011 9:01 PM MT

Pfizer Inc. (PFE), which has settled a third of the pending cases over its Prempro menopause drug, said it set aside $772 million to resolve claims the medicine causes breast cancer.

Officials of New York-based Pfizer, the world’s largest drugmaker, said in a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission yesterday that the reserve provides “the minimum expected costs to resolve all of the other outstanding” lawsuits over its hormone-replacement drugs. The company didn’t say how many cases would be settled.

“I see this as an effort to clean up a long-standing litigation so they can go forward with their business plan,” Les Funtleyder, a New York-based fund manager at Miller Tabak & Co. in New York who holds Pfizer shares, said yesterday in a phone interview. “This is probably a good thing for the stock.”

More than 6 million women took Prempro and related menopause drugs to treat symptoms including hot flashes and mood swings before a 2002 study highlighted their links to cancer. Wyeth’s sales of the medicines, which are still on the market, exceeded $2 billion before the release of the Women’s Health Initiative, a study sponsored by the National Institutes of Health.

Until 1995, many menopausal women combined Premarin, Wyeth’s estrogen-based drug, with progestin-laden Provera, made by Pfizer’s Upjohn unit, to relieve their symptoms. Wyeth combined the two hormones in its Prempro pill. Pfizer completed its $68 billion purchase of Wyeth in 2009.

10,000 Suits

At the height of the litigation, Pfizer faced more than 10,000 claims that its menopause drugs caused breast cancer, according to lawyers for former users. Those cases included more than 8,000 cases consolidated in federal court in Arkansas and other cases in state courts in Pennsylvania, Nevada and Minnesota.

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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.