RENO — Lawyers for three Northern Nevada women told jurors that the pharmaceutical giant Wyeth failed to properly test its products and ignored health risks that caused the women’s breast cancer.
Jeraldine Scofield, 75, of Fallon; Arlene Rowart, 67, of Incline Village; and Pamela Forrester, 64, of Yerington, claim in their lawsuit that their cancer was a direct result of Wyeth’s drugs — Premarin, an estrogen replacement, and Prempro, a combination of estrogen and progestin — used for treating menopause symptoms.
But Wyeth lawyers countered that the company conducted studies to determine the drugs’ risks and looked to federal regulators to help write adequate warning labels based on the best science available.
They told the jury that no evidence shows the hormone replacement drugs caused the women’s cancer. Instead, they said the drugs brought women welcome relief to the discomforts of aging, and protected them from osteoporosis.
The trial before Washoe District Judge Robert Perry is expected to run six weeks.
“The evidence will show that from 1975 on, there were a number of red flags when Wyeth was put on notice that there were some real questions that needed to be answered, Zoe Littlepage, one of the lawyers representing the women, said in a statement to jurors Tuesday.
“Wyeth made no effort to answer those questions, to find out what these drugs were doing in the breast.”
Wyeth lawyers said the drugs have benefits.
“As women, we all go through menopause,” Wyeth lawyer Heidi Hubbard told the jury. “Premarin and Prempro are very valuable treatment options. They work.”
Littlepage said as studies began to show the links between the drugs and breast cancer, Wyeth failed to act to ensure that women were warned or protected. The warning labels sent to doctors and patients were written badly and suggested that few studies showed any risk, she added.
“This is not a warning. This is a reassurance,” Littlepage said,.
Dan Webb, another Wyeth lawyer, challenged the claims.
“The suggestion that we tried to minimize the risk or ignore the risk is not supported by evidence,” he said.