HRT Makers’ Appeal Rejected by Supreme Court

The US Supreme Court just rejected an appeal made by some drug makers in three lawsuits alleging a link between their <"">hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and breast cancer, the Wall Street Journal just reported. HRTs are typically prescribed to minimize the effects of menopause and the plaintiffs allege the drug makers hid the HRT-breast cancer connection.

The lawsuits involve over 100 women and were filed in a Minnesota state court in 2008, said the Journal. The drug makers were seeking to move the cases to federal court and have them consolidated with other lawsuits making similar allegations, noted the Journal. The change was requested because the move would have dropped off a number of plaintiffs since many had filed similar lawsuits federally, said the Journal.

The drug makers involved in the Supreme Court appeal included Pfizer’s Wyeth and Pharmacia & Upjohn units, subsidiaries of Novartis AG, Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd., Abbott Laboratories, and Watson Pharmaceuticals Inc., noted the Journal.

Industry seeks to have product liability cases heard federally since it is believed that the federal court system provides industry with benefits, noted the Journal. In this case, the drug makers alleged that plaintiffs’ attorneys created the Minnesota lawsuits in such a way as to falsely keep claims from entering into the federal system, explained the Journal. In December, a federal trial judge concurred, noting that the plaintiffs should not have been joined since they took different medications, in different dosages, claiming different injuries, added the Journal. This year, a US appeals court overturned the ruling, siding with plaintiffs and stated that there were common themes in all of the cases; the Supreme Court let the ruling stand, said the Journal.

And, as we have long noted, the groundbreaking Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) trial that began in 1991, reported in 2002 that the risks of combined estrogen/progestin HRT were greater than the medication’s benefits. Following this announcement, HRT prescriptions dropped significantly worldwide. The drop in prescriptions correlated to a drop in breast cancer. When the WHI was stopped, researchers revealed that healthy women in menopause and on HRT were likelier to develop breast cancer. Since, an array of adverse effects has been associated with HRT.

Previously, we wrote that HRT was linked to an increased risk of women dying from lung cancer; women also exhibited increased risks for heart disease and stroke, breast cancer, and other adverse health events. We have also written that while HRT has long been linked to female cancers and fatal blood clots, a recent study concluded that women on HRT might be doubling their skin cancer risks. Yet another study revealed a connection with how HRT shrinks the brain. In addition to an increased risk of stroke and cerebrovascular disease in post-menopausal women on HRT, the WHI Memory Study found that post-menopausal women on HRT suffered from a higher risk of dementia and memory problems.

We also wrote that another study found that normal weight women on HRT and those who take combination estrogen/progestin therapy (EPT) over a longer time may face a higher risk of breast cancer. EPT drugs include <"">Prempro and Premphase. Yet another recent study revealed a link with estrogen-only HRT, and we wrote yesterday that an emerging study found a link between HRT and kidney Stones.

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