January 11, 2013 — Eli Lilly on Wednesday reached a settlement with four sisters who claimed they developed breast cancer as a result of a synthetic estrogen their mother took during pregnancy, AP/USA Today reports. The case is the first of many similar lawsuits to go to trial (Lavoie, AP/USA Today, 1/9).
The drug, called DES, was prescribed to pregnant women starting around 1938 to prevent miscarriages. In 1971, FDA told physicians to stop prescribing it after a study suggested an increased risk of a rare vaginal cancer years later among women whose mothers took the drug (Women's Health Policy Report, 1/10/11).
Thousands of lawsuits have been filed against companies that made or marketed DES that allege a link between the drug and vaginal cancer, cervical cancer and fertility problems.
Eli Lilly said that DES "did not cause the conditions alleged" in the sisters' lawsuit but that the settlement is in the company's "best interest." The financial terms of the settlement were not disclosed (AP/USA Today, 1/9).
Debra Ness, publisher & president, National Partnership
Andrea Friedman, associate editor & director of reproductive health programs, National Partnership
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