US Courts Back HRT and Breast Cancer Risk

March 15, 2010 by  
Filed under Health


It was as far back as 2002 that the link between breast cancer and HRT was first reported and the drug companies have been fighting a fierce rearguard campaign ever since. It was the Women’s Health Initiative study who came to this conclusion after a long term and massive research project and began around 8,000 lawsuits in the US.

Now in a record breaking judgement by a Philadelphia state-court jury, Wyeth, a division of Pfizer, was ordered to pay $6 million in punitive damages to Audrey Singleton, a retired school bus driver from Alabama,who developed breast cancer after taking the company’s menopause drugs. The award included $3.45 million in compensatory damages and $6 million in punitive damages awarded to punish the company for their conduct. Audrey Singleton alleged that Wyeth knew about the risk of breast cancer from Prempro and failed to warn the public about the risk of the drug.

The jury made this award on the basis that the company failed to warn about the risks of the drug and took only minutes to come to their decision. Audrey Singleton began taking Prempro in August 1997 and a mammogram taken at that time was normal, but in January 2004 she was diagnosed with breast cancer and stopped taking the drug. Until 1995, many patients combined Premarin, Wyeth’s estrogen-based drug, with Provera which is high in progestins – synthetic progesterone – and Wyeth combined the two hormones in Prempro.

Despite being diagnosed, her physician suggested she stay on the medicine, which Pfizer seem to think lets them off the hook but this verdict is Wyeth’s seventh loss in ten cases to have gone before juries and the fifth in a row over the drug.

All of the lawsuits focused on allegations that the drug company’s failure to warn consumers and the medical community about the risk of Prempro side effects caused them to develop invasive breast cancer. The company’s attorneys are still continuing to appeal the verdict, as they have in the previous cases, but there can now be no woman who is unaware of the potentially fatal link between HRT drugs and breast cancer.

Lies, Research and Drug Companies

February 22, 2010 by  
Filed under Health


Pfizer are I believe the second largest drug company in the world, and research articles published on their drugs run into the thousands. Now in the US, Dr. Scott Reuben, a former member of Pfizer’s speakers’ bureau, has agreed to plead guilty to faking dozens of research studies that were published in medical journals.

He was given a $75,000 grant from Pfizer to study Celebrex, a drug to help reduce pain after surgery, and his research on it has been used by hundreds of other doctors and researchers as “proof” that it was effective. Now it turns out that he never ran a trial on it, no patients were ever enrolled in the study and he made up the entire thing. Nor was this his first fraud, as reports in the Wall Street Journal have shown, as he was also found to have faked study data on Bextra and Vioxx drugs. Even more incredibly an internal audit at the Baystate Medical Center in Springfield, Massachussets, where he worked, found that he had been faking research data for 13 years.

Dr. Reuben has reportedly done a deal with the prosecutors to pay back $420,000 to the drug companies and faces up to ten years in jail. That should be a terrible warning you would think, but there is so much money at stake in the drug industry that there are widespread concerns that this is certainly not a one off.

The thing that saddens me is that alternative medicine is frequently dismissed as having ‘no scientific basis’ and being purely anecdotal, as if the patient’s experience is somehow not valid. However, if Dr Reuben is anything to go by at least the alternative market can point to actual trials on real people, and somehow I would far rather put my trust in that than in a study paid for by the company who is going to profit from marketing a new drug.