IBJNews

Lilly settles with four sisters in DES cancer case

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

Four sisters who claimed their breast cancer was caused by a drug their mother took during pregnancy in the 1950s reached a settlement Wednesday with Eli Lilly and Co. in the first of scores of similar claims around the country to go to trial.

Neither Lilly nor lawyers for the women would disclose the financial terms of the settlement, which was announced on the second day of testimony during a federal trial in Boston.

Lilly said it continues to believe its medication "did not cause the conditions alleged in this lawsuit" but the settlement was in its "best interest."

"Settling this trial helps us get back to what we want to focus on as a company; developing important new medications through research and partnerships with doctors and patients," it said in a statement.

A total of 51 women, including the Melnick sisters, filed lawsuits in Boston against more than a dozen companies that made or marketed a synthetic estrogen known as DES.

DES, or diethylstilbestrol, was prescribed to millions of pregnant women over three decades to prevent miscarriages, premature births and other problems. It was taken off the market in the early 1970s after it was linked to a rare vaginal cancer in women whose mothers used it.

Studies later showed the drug did not prevent miscarriages.

Attorney Aaron Levine, representing the Melnick sisters, told the jury during opening statements that Lilly failed to test the drug's effect on fetuses before promoting it as a way to prevent miscarriages.

Lawyer James Dillon, for Lilly, told the jury that there was no evidence the drug causes breast cancer in the daughters of women who took it.

Dillon also said that no medical records show the mother of the four Melnick sisters took DES or that, if she did take it, it was made by Lilly. Leading researchers at the time recommended that DES be used for pregnant women who had consecutive miscarriages, he said.

DES was not patented and was made by many companies.

The Melnick sisters, who grew up in Tresckow, Pa., said they all developed breast cancer in their 40s.

Levine told the jury their mother did not take DES while pregnant with a fifth sister and that sister has not developed breast cancer.

The four Melnick sisters also had miscarriages, fertility problems or other reproductive tract problems long suspected of being caused by prenatal exposure to DES. They were diagnosed with breast cancer between 1997 and 2003 and had treatments ranging from lump-removal surgery to a full mastectomy, radiation and chemotherapy.

Thousands of lawsuits have been filed alleging links between DES and vaginal cancer, cervical cancer and fertility problems. Many of those cases were settled.
Attorney Andrew Meyer, who's handled numerous medical malpractice cases, said the settlement in this case could signal settlements in other cases.

"When one settles a case, they recognize they can lose it," he said. "The reason they can lose it is because there's enough evidence for the plaintiffs to be able to win it. So it's not just optics, it isn't."

Columbus, Ohio, resident Irene Sawyer also is suing Lilly, alleging that her prenatal exposure to DES caused her breast cancer. She called the settlement "a huge victory" for DES daughters.

"The bottom line is that this company put out a drug without testing, without knowing the consequences of this drug," she said.

It's wonderful, she said, that drug companies "are starting to realize this is not right, that there are consequences."

 

ADVERTISEMENT

  • Seems ironic
    It just seems ironic to me that women are suing companies that made a drug that may have made it possible for them to have been born in the first place. Had their mother’s not taken the drug and the babies not been born, these suits would never have come to court. Why aren’t the vindictive women suing their parents for them being born a female and therein more likely to develop breast cancer? Is the money the win or accept as a settlement going to extend their life appreciably? I think not.
  • Do not see why the sued Lilly
    All people seem to do today is sue people and companies.It's not saying much for our society, is it? Besides, they could all just carry a cancer gene.

Post a comment to this story

COMMENTS POLICY
We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
 
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
 
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in IBJ editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
 
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
 
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.
 

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by
ADVERTISEMENT

facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ on Facebook:
Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ's Tweets on these topics:
 
Subscribe to IBJ
  1. The east side does have potential...and I have always thought Washington Scare should become an outlet mall. Anyone remember how popular Eastgate was? Well, Indy has no outlet malls, we have to go to Edinburgh for the deep discounts and I don't understand why. Jim is right. We need a few good eastsiders interested in actually making some noise and trying to change the commerce, culture and stereotypes of the East side. Irvington is very progressive and making great strides, why can't the far east side ride on their coat tails to make some changes?

  2. Boston.com has an article from 2010 where they talk about how Interactions moved to Massachusetts in the year prior. http://www.boston.com/business/technology/innoeco/2010/07/interactions_banks_63_million.html The article includes a link back to that Inside Indiana Business press release I linked to earlier, snarkily noting, "Guess this 2006 plan to create 200-plus new jobs in Indiana didn't exactly work out."

  3. I live on the east side and I have read all your comments. a local paper just did an article on Washington square mall with just as many comments and concerns. I am not sure if they are still around, but there was an east side coalition with good intentions to do good things on the east side. And there is a facebook post that called my eastside indy with many old members of the eastside who voice concerns about the east side of the city. We need to come together and not just complain and moan, but come up with actual concrete solutions, because what Dal said is very very true- the eastside could be a goldmine in the right hands. But if anyone is going damn, and change things, it is us eastside residents

  4. Please go back re-read your economics text book and the fine print on the February 2014 CBO report. A minimum wage increase has never resulted in a net job loss...

  5. The GOP at the Statehouse is more interested in PR to keep their majority, than using it to get anything good actually done. The State continues its downward spiral.

ADVERTISEMENT