Pfizer's court victory puts NJ hormone suits in question

A New Jersey appellate court may have just negated more than 150 lawsuits over hormone replacement therapy. The panel ruled last week that Pfizer ($PFE) can't be sued by two women who claim that HRT caused their breast cancer. The question now is whether the appellate ruling effectively dismisses the rest of New Jersey's HRT lawsuits.

"If you happen to be a woman in New Jersey, you don't get your day in court," plaintiffs' lawyer Esther Berezofsky told The Star-Ledger. Berezofsky has already asked the state Supreme Court to consider the latest ruling. "We really didn't want to waste any time," she said.

The appellate panel said in its ruling that there was no evidence Pfizer units Wyeth and Upjohn misled patients or doctors about the risks of hormone therapy with their Premarin, Prempro and Provera drugs. Judge Edith Payne called the lower court's dismissal of the two women's claims "well supported by the evidence and legally unassailable," the Star-Ledger reports.

Pfizer called the ruling "an important victory" that was "based on a thorough and detailed review of the record" and "supports our consistent position that these medicines have always carried accurate, science-based, FDA-approved warnings."

Whatever ultimately happens to the lawsuits in New Jersey, the Pfizer units faces thousands of cases in other states and in federal court. Some 3,000 cases have been dismissed, and Pfizer has won about half of the Prempro cases that went to a jury. Several verdicts against the company have been thrown out or reduced. Still, as Pharmalot notes, the company set aside almost $800 million to cover the HRT litigation.

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