Litigation

Williams Love O’Leary & Powers Files Prempro Lawsuit

PORTLAND, Ore. — Attorney Mike Williams announced March 11 a lawsuit filed by Sharron Selman, Joan Tope and Linda Narz, who want doctors to stop prescribing the hormone replacement drug Prempro and its active ingredients. At the same time, they want doctors to start informing patients about a safe alternative.

Tope, of Vancouver, Wash., and Selman and Narz, of the Portland area, have each been diagnosed with *** cancer. Their diagnoses came after following their doctors’ prescriptions for synthetic hormone replacement therapy (HRT). The prescriptions were made to relieve hot flashes and other symptoms of menopause.

“My doctor never told me there was a safe alternative to the drug he prescribed,” said Narz. “I would have never taken Prempro if I had known it was so likely to give me cancer while there was a much safer but equally effective and FDA-approved alternative.”

The women say the safe alternative is a natural hormone drug called Prometrium, an oral micronized progesterone that is chemically identical to the native, natural human hormone progesterone. It is FDA approved and has been on the market since the 1990s.

At a news conference, a lawsuit was announced against the doctors who prescribed the drugs and against the manufacturers who put the drugs on the market. Two of the plaintiffs, Narz and Selman, attended the news conference and expressed hope the legal action would spur doctors to stop using Prempro and similar drugs.

Narz and Selman said their doctors told them Prempro constituted a risk for cancer but they felt the risk was slight or remote. Since their diagnoses, they said they’ve learned Prempro presents a high risk for *** cancer and a safe alternative exists.

The women were joined by their attorney, Williams, senior partner at the Portland law firm of Williams Love O’Leary & Powers. Williams reminded reporters he held a news conference with *** cancer survivors three years ago, in February 2007. The message then was the same but Prempro continued to be prescribed and thousands more users have since been diagnosed with *** cancer caused by the drug.

“If Prempro had been off the market starting in 2007,” Williams said, “these three women, and thousands of others, would very likely not have developed *** cancer.” Williams added that another effective tactic would have been for doctors to be more honest and direct about the alarming rate at which the drug causes cancer.

The lawsuit (No. 1002-02718) was filed in Multnomah County Circuit Court, a state court. In the past, a majority of *** cancer survivors filed their claims only against the manufacturers and only in federal court. Those cases have proceeded slowly. Williams said he believes that bringing claims in the Oregon state court and adding prescribing doctors as defendants will speed up justice for the women and bring greater pressure to get Prempro and similar artificial hormones off the market. Wyeth contends that it is the job of the prescribing doctors, not the drug companies, to inform the women about safer alternatives. The lawsuit contends that doctors turned a blind eye to the risks posed to women by the artificial hormone drugs, minimizing *** cancer and other risks without informing their patients about the safe, natural alternatives.

Named in the lawsuits are area doctors Miles Seeley, Douglas Eubanks, Harpreet Daisy Dhillon, Paula J. Spencer and Steven Lisook; clinics Women’s Healthcare Associates, Columbia View Medical Center and Valley View Medical Clinic; and pharmaceutical companies Wyeth and Pfizer Inc. Wyeth had been the manufacturer of Prempro until 2009, when the drug company was purchased by Pfizer.

Narz was diagnosed with *** cancer in March 2009. Selman found out she had the cancer in May 2009 and Tope was diagnosed in February 2008. Substantial evidence that oral micronized progesterone is safer than Prempro has been published in medical literature since 2005, according to Williams.