Boston personal injury lawsuit targets 1950s drug

A unique personal injury lawsuit taking place in Boston aims to convince the court that a medication taken by an expecting mother in the 1950s is the reason her four daughters ended up developing breast cancer later in life.

The drug, which was produced by Eli Lilly and Co., was marketed as a method of preventing miscarriages. But the company never performed testing on how the drug affected fetuses before it sold the medication.

This case involving the four daughters is the first of a number of similar cases set to go to trial. So far, 51 women have filed lawsuits alleging that the drug caused them to develop breast cancer.

One lawyer for the pharmaceutical company contends that the plaintiffs have several gaps in their case, such as a lack of proof that the mother took an anti-miscarriage medication made by Eli Lilly and an inability to prove a link between the medication and their specific breast cancer.

The four sisters are seeking unspecified damages.

While the medication in question, DES, was widely prescribed to women for several decades last century, it was pulled from the market in the 1970s after it was found to increase the risk of a rare type of vaginal cancer in some women.

Later research revealed that the drug does not help prevent miscarriages.

In addition to breast cancer, all four sisters attached to the lawsuit suffered other problems later in life, such as miscarriages, fertility problems and other reproductive tract issues. Their exposure to DES is suspected of being the primary cause.

Source: Boston Globe, “Mass. women at trial: Pregnancy drug caused cancer,” Denise Lavoie, Jan. 8, 2013