Four sisters, each having suffered from breast cancer, settled a lawsuit this week with drug manufacturer Eli Lilly & Co. after the sisters claimed a drug manufactured by Eli Lilly that their mother took during their pregnancy caused their breast cancer. Over fifty women, including the sisters, have filed claims in Massachusetts against a number of drug manufacturers that made or marketed the synthetic drug diethylstilbestrol, also know as DES. DES was prescribed to millions of women during the 1950’s, 60’s and 70’s, believed to prevent miscarriages, premature births and other pregnancy problems. At the time, DES was recommended for women who had suffered multiple miscarriages. The drug was taken off the market in the 1970’s after researchers linked it to a rare vaginal cancer in women whose mothers were prescribed the drug. It was later discovered that the drug did not prevent miscarriages. The sisters, who all developed breast cancer in their 40s, claim their mother took DES while pregnant with them, but not their sister, who has not developed breast cancer.
The sisters’ case went to trial earlier this week, but the settlement came just two after it began. In opening statements, the attorney for the sisters stated “Eli Lilly failed to test the drug’s effect on fetuses before promoting it as a way to prevent miscarriages.” Eli Lilly’s attorney contended that there was no evidence linking the drug to breast cancer. Further, he argued, if their mother took DES, there was no evidence that Eli Lilly had manufactured the drug their mother was prescribed.
The settlement between the sisters and Eli Lilly could indicate that more settlements are to come. “When one settles a case, they recognize that they can lose it. The reason they can lose it is because there is enough evidence for the plaintiffs to be able to win it,” stated one Massachusetts malpractice attorney. Other women who have filed suit against Eli Lilly revere this settlement as a “huge victory for DES daughters.” Another plaintiff against Eli Lilly stated, “The bottom line is that this company put out a drug without test, without knowing the consequences of the drug.” Thousands of other lawsuits were filed, alleging the links between “DES and vaginal cancer, cervical cancer and fertility problems;” most of those cases have been settled as well.
Eli Lilly settles Mass. pregnancy drug-cancer case, www.miamiherald.com January 09, 2013
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