I found this great article b y Annie Flanzaraich for the North Lake Tahoe Bonanza.
I have included the text and a link to the original site.
Woman wins $43 million medical lawsuit
Bonanza Staff Writer
October 21, 2007
Leg cramps, breast pain and yeast infections.
Those were the side effects listed on Arlene Rowatt's bottle of Premarin, a drug she started using in 1991 to treat menopause symptoms.
But almost a decade later she developed breast cancer, and a chronic fear of doctors and pills.
"I don't have any faith in the medical profession at all," said Rowatt, 67, of Incline Village.
Two weeks ago a jury found in favor of Rowatt and two other Nevada women, and issued a $134 million judgment against pharmaceutical giant Wyeth. The $43 million in compensatory and punitive damages the jury awarded Rowatt can't bring back her health. But, she says it can send a message to any women who may still be on the combination estrogen progesterone pill, now called Prempro.
"What we really wanted to do is tell women if they are taking that drug to stop taking it immediately," Rowatt said.
From 1990 to 1995, Premarin was the most frequently dispensed prescription drug in the United States, according to court documents from Rowatt's trail. When it was prescribed to Rowatt, the drug already enjoyed a two-decade long marketing campaign. A key slogan was "start her on, keep her on."
So Rowatt stayed on the drugs for almost a decade, drugs meant to treat common symptoms of menopause like hot flashes or mood swings. Wyeth marketed the drug as a preventative measure against osteoporosis. It is a claim not backed by medicine, according to court documents.
Before moving to Incline Village from Oregon in 2000, she found a lump in her breast. Rowatt was worried, but didn't suspect cancer. She already had two cysts removed, and had no risk factors or family history of breast cancer.
The diagnosis was shocking.
"I was somewhat in denial, I could not believe it," Rowatt said.
She was alone in Incline Village after her moving from Oregon and retiring from 25 years of service in the Army Corps. Rowatt had the cancer removed and went through chemotherapy, but still didn't know what caused the cancer.
Then one night in 2002 she watched a newscast about a Women's Health Initiative study - a study that found hormone therapy increased a woman's risk for breast cancer by 26 percent.
"I learned about it from Tom Brokaw," Rowatt said. "I was furious that I had to hear it on television."
By 2004 when she saw an ad from the Las Vegas and Reno-based law firm of White, Meany & Wetherall looking for women who had breast cancer after hormone therapy, she was ready to take action.
The law firm previously won a $14 million lawsuit against the Dow Chemical Co. for faulty breast implants.
"We don't prosecute frivolous lawsuits, we don't have the time or inclination to do that," firm partner Geoffrey White said. "But we like going against large corporations that make bad and defective products that injure people."
The law firm interviewed more than 1,000 women state-wide who had breast cancer after taking hormone therapy. Rowatt and two other women, Jeraldine Scofield, 75, of Fallon, and Pamela Forrester, 64, of Yerington, were chosen because they were on the drug for a prolonged period of time and didn't exhibit any risk factors or family history of breast cancer.
The judgment levied against Wyeth on Oct. 11 for Rowatt and the other women is the largest award to date against the New Jersey-based company. It faces about 5,300 similar lawsuits across the country in state and federal courts.
"That's 5,300 women just like me," Rowatt said. "I would like to see them (Wyeth) get hurt bad enough that they have to do something about getting that drug off the market.
Wyeth said it would appeal the judgment because of jury confusion while awarding damages.
"This flawed verdict is the result of a trial riddled with errors," Lawrence V. Stein, Wyeth's Senior Vice President and General Counsel said in a statement. "The events of last week and the confusion surrounding the jury's deliberations only confirm our view that this verdict will not survive on appeal."
Still, White said the verdict was valid and felt it would stand up in the Nevada Supreme Court if it got there.
"All three of our clients would willingly happily give their checks back to Wyeth, every penny plus interest, if they could have their health back," White said.
Rowatt, who has severe heart problems including two replaced valves and aorta, said she will create a living trust with the money for her three children and eight grandchildren. She also would like to donate some of it to the Susan G. Komen foundation. She also said she would like to travel if her health was up to it.