More Prempro Suits On the Way but Plaintiffs May Have Difficult Time Proving Their Cases - Chicago Sun-Times - July 24, 2002

But plaintiffs may have difficult time proving their cases
By: Rita Rubin
Chicago Sun-Times
July 24, 2002

Lawsuits filed in Chicago and Philadelphia against the maker of Prempro; a top- selling brand of postmenopausal hormones; are expected to be the start of a litigation boom as law firms rush to capitalize on new findings of a government study that links the hormones to increased risks of health problems and concludes they do more harm than good.

"The first morning after we filed, we had a bank of six phones just lit up constantly all day long," said Hal Kleinman, a lawyer with the Chicago firm Kenneth B. Moll & Associates that's seeking class-action status for a suit filed last week in federal court against Wyeth Pharmaceuticals.

That suit seeks compensation for women "injured" by taking Prempro, and monitoring of women who use the drug. A similar suit was filed in federal court in Philadelphia on Thursday.

The lawyers who filed those suits, as well as several other law firms, have revamped their Web sites in an effort to attract women who think their health problems stem from taking Prempro.

Researchers halted the government study three years early because women on Prempro — a combination of estrogen and progestin — faced a slight but significantly raised risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer, heart attacks, strokes and blood clots in the legs or lungs than women on a placebo.

Wyeth spokeswoman Natalie de Vane called the lawsuits baseless. "We don't believe there is any legal or factual basis for the claims filed against Wyeth related to Prempro" and the study, de Vane said.

Even if plaintiffs have a valid claim, it will be difficult to prove, said Boston lawyer Michael Hugo, who chairs the Association of Trial Lawyers of America's section on toxic, environmental and pharmaceutical law.

"I think you have such common ailments that are suffered by so much of society . . . that it's going to be difficult in many cases to pin it on the Prempro," said Hugo, whose firm has been contacted by more than 100 people looking to sue.

"We're not saying take the drug off the market," Kleinman said. "If you're going to put a drug on the marketplace, you had better thoroughly test it."