Company news: Pfizer, Merck

A May 10 SEC filing shows that Pfizer has settled approximately 60% of lawsuits over its line of hormone replacement therapies for an aggregate of $896 million, reported Bloomberg. The lump sum includes definitive and in-principle agreements, but does not mean that more lawsuits aren't pending. The notation was part of the company's second-quarter results, says the company has set aside an additional $330 million for HRT lawsuits, and indicated that although new suits pop up, the number of new cases in the first quarter was not significant. Lawsuits allege that the hormone replacement products were linked to breast and ovarian cancers as well as stroke and heart disease. Pfizer is on the hook for a variety of hormone replacement therapies, including Vagifem, a Novo Nordisk product which a Pfizer affiliate sold from 200-2004, legacy Wyeth products that include Premarin and Prempro and legacy Pharmacia and Upjohn products that include Provera and Ogen. The filing notes that these products are still approved by the FDA. Weeks later, a US Preventive Services Task Force released recommendations that post-menopausal women avoid hormone replacement therapy for health reasons.

Merck announced it will conduct a big, multi-year study looking into how to improve adherence to treatment plans. Merck is partnering with electronic health record experts Geisinger Health System on the study, which aims to boost patient health outcomes through improved adherence, giving patients a greater role in decision-making around managing chronic conditions, facilitating better communication among extended health care teams and streamlining clinical care processes. For starters, the partners are working on an interactive web app aimed at helping primary care physicians assess and engage patients at risk for cardiometabolic syndrome.