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High court allows trial on drug safety to proceed

By Bill Mears, CNN Supreme Court Producer
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Arkansas woman contends hormone replacement therapy led to breast cancer
  • Jury had awarded her $2.75 million in compensatory damages
  • Wyeth Pharmaceuticals wanted that award dismissed and second trial blocked
  • Second trial is to set punitive damages
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Washington (CNN) -- A lawsuit brought by a breast cancer patient against a major drug company will go forward after the Supreme Court refused to intervene in the dispute.

The justices without comment Monday turned aside an appeal from Wyeth Pharmaceuticals, maker of drugs for hormone replacement therapy.

An Arkansas jury had awarded $2.75 million in compensatory damages to Donna Scroggin, who claimed she developed the cancer from drugs made by Wyeth and Upjohn Corp. Both companies are now owned by Pfizer Inc. The Little Rock resident argued the medicines Prempro and Premarin lacked adequate safety warnings about the increased risks for developing breast cancer.

Wyeth had asked the high court to dismiss that jury award and to block a second trial that is to be limited to deciding punitive damages. A federal appeals court in St. Louis has ordered that separate rehearing, amid questions about the testimony of a former Food and Drug Administration official who testified on Scroggin's behalf in the original trial.

Depending on the outcome of the punitive damages portion of the case, Pfizer could appeal again to the Supreme Court.

Chief Justice John Roberts backed out of consideration of the current appeal because he owns Pfizer stock.

The case is Wyeth LLC v. Scroggin (09-1123).

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