A Washoe County jury has ordered pharmaceutical giant Wyeth to pay more than $43 million each to three Northern Nevada women who claimed in a lawsuit the company's hormone-replacement drugs caused their breast cancer.
The jury said Premarin, an estrogen replacement, and Prempro, a combination of estrogen and progestin, were defective products and found Wyeth was negligent in producing, marketing and selling the drugs.
The company "concealed a material fact about the safety of the product," the jury said.
When asked: "Did you find by clear and convincing evidence that Wyeth acted with malice or fraud," the five-man, two-woman jury said, "yes."
Jurors will return Friday to decide whether Wyeth should pay punitive damages.
Zoe Littlepage, one of the lawyers for the women, hugged Jeraldine Scofield of Fallon, Arlene Rowatt of Incline Village and Pamela Forrester of Yerington after the jury was polled.
"You so deserved this," Littlepage said as they hugged and cried. "You so, so deserved this."
Wyeth spokesman Doug Petkus said the company had no comment.
The Delaware-based company is fighting about 5,300 similar lawsuits from about 7,800 women in state and federal courts across the country.
Wyeth reached an undisclosed settlement last October with a fourth woman who had been part of the Washoe District Court lawsuit.
Carol McCreary was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2001 after taking Prempro for about 33 months. She died in April at age 59.
Scofield, Rowatt and Forrester testified during the four-week trial that they developed breast cancer after taking the hormone-replacement drugs to offset the symptoms of menopause.
They claimed in their lawsuit that Wyeth produced a dangerous product, failed to adequately test the drugs and failed to provide warnings about the drugs' risks.
Wyeth lawyers argued the company sponsored or participated in a list of studies on the risks of breast cancer, and detailed the risks on the warning labels included with each bottle of the drug. The lawyers also said they provided doctors with the information.
But the jury disagreed.
On the special verdict forms for each plaintiff, jurors marked "yes" when asked if Wyeth was negligent and if the negligence was "a legal cause of injury" to the women; "yes" when asked if the product was defective and if the defect was "a legal cause of damage or injury" to the women and "yes" when asked if the women proved "by clear and convincing evidence" that Wyeth hid facts about the drugs' safety.
The jurors awarded Scofield $7.5 million in past damages and $36 million in future damages; Rowatt $7.5 million in past damages and $36 million in future damages and Forrester
$7.5 million in past damages and $40 million in future damages.
The jury began deliberating Tuesday morning after closing arguments on Monday and returned the verdict at 4:35 p.m. Wednesday.