Lilly settles suit linking old miscarriage drug to breast cancer

The first court fight over the old miscarriage drug DES and alleged links to breast cancer didn't last long. On the second day of the trial, Eli Lilly ($LLY) settled with the four plaintiffs, who had claimed that the drug, used by their mother during pregnancy, caused them to develop the disease.

As the Boston Globe reports, lawyers for the four Melnick sisters argued that Lilly didn't test the synthetic estrogen on fetuses before promoting it for use by pregnant women to prevent miscarriages. The case's first witness, a Harvard public health doctor, testified that DES has been shown to cause cancer.

Lilly maintains that there's no connection between the synthetic estrogen and the women's breast cancer. Settling the case was legally expedient. "While we continue to believe that Lilly's medication did not cause the conditions alleged in the lawsuit, we believe the settlement is in the best interest of the company," the company said in a statement (as quoted by the Globe). "Settling this trial helps us get back to what we want to focus on as a company."

The Indianapolis-based drugmaker isn't the only pharma company that sold DES, nor is it the only company that has been sued. Some of those companies have previously settled DES lawsuits--alleging the drug caused vaginal and cervical cancers--before they went to trial.

Patient advocates hailed the settlement, believed to be the first linking DES to breast cancer. "They can't dodge, weave, or flat out lie anymore, because this is something we know," Caitlin McCarthy, a DES activist, told the Globe, going on to say, "It's become embarrassing for them to say this does not cause breast cancer."

- see the Globe piece