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Reports of health risks associated with hormone replacement therapy have been in the news for some time. Risk levels may increase with duration of therapy. Such is the argument is the case of a Philadelphia woman who was diagnosed with breast cancer eight years ago. The woman was prescribed Provera, manufactured by Upjohn, and Premarin, manufactured by Wyeth. She took both drugs for four years before Wyeth combined the two hormones into one drug, Prempro. Upjohn and Wyeth are now subsidiaries of Pfizer, Inc. Two years after her drug therapy, the woman developed breast cancer. She and her husband have been seeking justice ever since.

The case is Philadelphia’s first hormone replacement therapy (HRT) mass tort case. The couple filed a lawsuit, alleging that the hormone replacement therapy drugs prescribed, caused the woman’s breast cancer. An initial jury verdict awarded the plaintiff $1.5 million in damages; that jury stated that Provera was a cause of her breast cancer, but that Wyeth had adequately warned the woman in its product information about the risks of breast cancer. It was later determined that such a finding is inconsistent since Provera must be used in conjunction with the Wyeth drugs as part of an overall HRT. A judge ruled that the plaintiff must ask another jury to consider whether Pfizer’s Upjohn subsidiary hid the health risks of its Provera HRT drug. If the two drugs were suppose to be used together, how can one drug manufacturer be liable and not the other?

This case underscores the "David vs. Goliath" reality of litigation; this has been a long and painful process physically, mentally, emotionally, and most likely, financially for the plaintiff. It is important, however, to carry on, to not succumb to these huge corporations who put corporate profits ahead of human suffering. A second trial will result in additional hardship, but it is important that the jury reaches a just verdict, with all of the facts at hand. And the central question is: Did the manufacturer(s) provide adequate warnings of risk on any or all drugs and combinations of drugs prescribed to, and used by, the plaintiff? Were the warning label warnings sufficient?

There is increased awareness of HRT drugs; usage has been on a decline in the last few years. This is what mass tort lawsuits do; they inform and educate masses of people about the dangers of a particular product or drug. But today’s increased awareness does not provide assistance or comfort to the millions of woman who have already ingested these drugs and have developed side effects, including breast cancer. It does not help those who may be at risk, but have no identifiable signs or symptoms as of yet. This case could set a precedent for many HRT cases still pending or that may arise in the future. And these are the other benefits of consumer protection lawsuits: they punish the perpetrators so they don’t repeat the conduct and they compensate the victims for their pain and suffering.

These corporate and pharmaceutical interests have banded together with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to push a tort reform agenda that would restrict access to citizens who wish to pursue these types of consumer safety lawsuits. These efforts, if successful, could have a major impact on the ability of our citizens to be compensated for damage done by dangerous and defective products and drugs. Lawsuit Financial, the pro-justice lawsuit funding company believes that instead of pushing this dangerous and potentially deadly tort reform agenda, it is time for these companies to do a better job in research and testing before exposing Americans to potentially dangerous and life-threatening products and drugs.

Mark Bello has thirty-three years experience as a trial lawyer and twelve years as an underwriter and situational analyst in the lawsuit funding industry. He is the owner and founder of Lawsuit Financial Corporationwhich helps provide cash flow solutions and consulting when necessities of life funding is needed during litigation. Bello is a Justice Pac member of the American Association for Justice, Sustaining and Justice Pac member of the Michigan Association for Justice, Business Associate of the Florida, Tennessee, and Colorado Associations for Justice, a member of the American Bar Association, the State Bar of Michigan and the Injury Board.

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