In Boston, a lawsuit brought upon by four sisters claiming that their breast cancer was caused by a pregnancy drug their mother took in the 1950’s has been reached by Eli Lilly and Co. Many believe this lawsuit will spark a movement to solve other financial claims made by other women around the country.
A total of 51 women, including the four Melnick sisters, have filed lawsuits in Boston to over a dozen companies that has made or marked a synthetic estrogen known as DES.
DES, or diethylstilbestrol, was prescribed to millions of pregnant women over three decades with the intent of preventing miscarriages, premature births, and other problems associated with pregnancy. The drug was taken off the market in the 1970’s after it was linked to a rare vaginal cancer in women whose mothers used the drug. Studies eventually went on to prove that the drug did not prevent miscarriages either.
The attorney in representation with the Melnick sisters told the jury that Eli Lilly and Co. had failed to test the drug’s effect on fetuses before it started promoting the drug as a way to prevent miscarriages. The lawyer in representation of Eli Lilly claimed that there was never any evidence of DES causing breast cancer in the daughters of women who took the drug.
The same lawyer for Eli Lilly stated that there were no medical records to show that the mother of the Melnick sisters ever took DES or that if she did, that the product was made by Eli Lilly. Researchers at the time encouraged DES to be taken only by women who had already had multiple miscarriages.
The Melnick sisters, who grew up in Pennsylvania, all were diagnosed with breast cancer while in their 40s. Their mother had not taken DES with her fifth child and interestingly enough, the fifth daughter has not developed breast cancer. The four sisters have not only suffered from breast cancer but have experienced miscarriages, fertility problems, and other reproductive tract problems due to prenatal DES exposure.
Thousands of lawsuits have been filed by women who allege that there is a link between DES and vaginal cancer, cervical cancer, and fertility problems. Many of those cases have been settled and more women throughout the country hope that the Melnick settlement sparks more awareness of the case.