A woman who suffered breast cancer filed a lawsuit against the former manufacturers of a drug called Diethylstibestrol (DES).
DES was a synthetic estrogen given to women as pills, topical creams and other forms, and was in use from the 1940’s until the 1971 recall.
The DES breast cancer lawsuit names numerous defendants, including Johnson & Johnson, Eil Lilly, Sanofi-Aventis, Abbott, Bristol-Myers Squibb, GlaxoSmithKline, and Merck among others. All of these companies were involved with the production, distribution and/or sale of DES for use during pregnancy.
The DES Lawsuit
In 1948, the defendants manufactured, marketed, promoted, advertised, and sold massive doses of DES therapy throughout the United States for use by pregnant women.
Teri Beville, a North Carolina woman, filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey explaining that in 1965 her mother was prescribed the now discontinued drug.
Beville discovered in 1986 that she had a bicornuate uterus, which was a known side effect of being exposed to DES in the womb.
According to the “Chen Study”, published in 1941 it stated that the effects of DES on rats resulted in a definite atrophy of ovaries and thymus. Prior studies also reported that rats given DES gave birth to rats that had malformed reproductive organs
Along with the uterus deficiency Beville had another serious issue. In March 2011 she was diagnosed with breast cancer and had to undergo a double mastectomy in addition to chemotherapy. Beville also had multiple revision surgeries for breast reconstruction.
She pointed out that there were no genetic or environmental factors that increased her risk of breast cancer.
However, by the 1930’s the scientific community was aware that DES possessed carcinogenic characteristics. All these studies were published and made available to the defendants, however they were not reviewed.
As a result of these studies the defendants failed to take action and did not warn physicians or the public about the rising concerns regarding DES.
Facts Concerning DES
DES was removed from the market in 1971, but for several decades women were given the drug during pregnancy to prevent complications.
The lawsuit alleges that the defendants coordinated their applications to the FDA for initial approval of DES as a miscarriage preventative even though they did not conduct any human or animal study regarding the drug’s safety.
Later, DES was placed on a list of drugs to examine, however the examination did not take place until after the 1971 recall.
Studies suggest that grown daughters of those women who were prescribed the drug, like Beville, are now showing increased rates of breast cancer, infertility, and other health conditions.
Side effects from DES are reported to even be affecting granddaughters of the women subjected to this drug, causing them to have a late onset of menstruation and irregular menstrual cycles.
An estimated 4 million people are suspected to have been exposed to DES in utero before use was discontinued.