Federal preemption arguments failed in October to prevent a Nevada jury from awarding three women $134.5 million in their suit against Wyeth over its hormone replacement products Premarin and Prempro that they alleged caused their breast cancer. Later, the presiding judge slashed $100 million from the award as improperly punitive and ordered the jury to reconsider it.
The award was seen as daunting for Wyeth as it defends more than 5,000 similar lawsuits across the country. A penalty phase of the trial continues, which could lead to more monetary damages.
Preemption arguments were first raised in Wyeth's 2004 answer to the plaintiffs' complaint. The company said plaintiffs' claims that its products were unsafe are barred by the doctrine of preemption and the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution.
“Any claim for injunctive relief is preempted or barred by federal law because such a claim would impede, frustrate and burden the effectiveness of federal law regulating the field of prescription drugs; require Wyeth to meet conflicting obligations under federal and state law; and constitute an invalid burden on interstate commerce…,” it said.