Pfizer to release sealed Prempro documents

Two bits of news in the long saga that is Wyeth's hormone-replacement litigation (now Pfizer's, of course, since the buyout). First, a Philadelphia jury ordered Pfizer to pay $6.3 million in compensatory damages to an Illinois woman who alleged that the menopause treatments Premarin, Provera and Prempro caused her breast cancer. The jury also found that punitive damages would be warranted because of the company's failure to warn about the drugs' risks.

Second--and given the media coverage accorded to unsealed legal documents, perhaps more important--is that a Florida suit will end up releasing internal company documents upon the world. According to the St. Petersburg Times, Pfizer will release the documents rather than go through a public hearing that might have ended up labeling the hormone drug Prempro as a "public hazard."

Here's the background: There's just one HRT-related suit in a Florida court, and the plaintiff's lawyers argue that it's subject to the state's Sunshine in Litigation law. That law prohibits a court from sealing papers if they concern a "public hazard." As the St. Petersburg Times first reported, the Florida plaintiff's lawyers cited that statute, refusing to agree to the confidentiality agreement Wyeth has pressed upon other plaintiffs' attorneys in the Prempro cases. No confidentiality order, no access to 16 million discovery documents.

The Florida court was scheduled to hear arguments today about that confidentiality requirement, giving Judge Anthony Rondolino the power to decide whether the HRT drugs involved are so-called public hazards--and thus whether the documents should see the light of day. But late Friday, the drugmaker agreed to release some 300,000 corporate documents that until now were hidden under court seal. The company said it did so to avoid "lengthy court proceedings." And Rondolino says he'll make sure the documents are released as promised--and that any held back really do involve trade secrets.

- get the news from Reuters
- read the Times coverage here and here
- see the post at Pharmalot