MA Women at Trial: Eli Lilly and Company Pregnancy Drug Caused Our Cancers
Published: Jan 09, 2013
Eli Lilly and Co. failed to test a drug's effect on fetuses before promoting it as a way to prevent miscarriages, a lawyer charged Tuesday in opening statements in a trial over whether four sisters' breast cancer was caused by medication their mother took during pregnancy in the 1950s. A lawyer for Eli Lilly told the jury there is no evidence the synthetic estrogen known as DES causes breast cancer in the daughters of women who took it. In addition, no medical records show the mother of the four women in the Boston case took DES, he said, or that if she did take it, that it was made by Eli Lilly. DES was not patented and was made by many companies at the time. 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 DES. Studies later showed the drug did not prevent miscarriages. The Melnick sisters, who grew up in Tresckow, Pa., say they all developed breast cancer in their 40s after their mother took DES while pregnant. Their lawyer, Aaron Levine, told the jury that their mother did not take DES while pregnant with a fifth sister, and that sister has not developed breast cancer. "What are the odds of that happening in nature, if DES wasn't the culprit?" Levine said. Levine said Eli Lilly urged doctors to prescribe DES without proof that it was safe or that it prevented miscarriages and other reproductive problems.