According to research reported back in October, the daughters of women given diethylstilbestrol (DES), a synthetic estrogen that was prescribed to millions of women in the United States, Europe and other countries to prevent miscarriages and birth defects, were showing high rates of breast cancer and infertility problems.
And, now in a first of it’s kind lawsuit, a woman is alleging that the drugs caused her cancer and she is taking the 14 manufacturers of the drugs to court. Her lawsuit alleges that the manufacturers knew about the potential dangers and never did anything about it.
The woman, Aline MacCormack alleges that these companies hid safety data from regulators for years about the potential dangers of DES. Eli Lilly and Co. and Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. are among the companies named in this latest lawsuit.
MacCormack, of Newton, is one of 53 women from around the country who are suing drug companies who made and promoted DES for millions of pregnant women from about 1938 to the early 1970s.
It wasn’t until 1971 that DES was removed from the market, after studies found that it was ineffective and appeared to be linked to vaginal cancer. However, according to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, grown daughters of those women are now showing increased rates of breast cancer, infertility and other health problems.
DES was heavily prescribed to pregnant women during these decades to prevent complications with pregnancy. And, now thousands of women born to mothers who were prescribed these drugs believe it’s had a negative impact on their life.
While MacCormack is the first person to allege the synthetic estrogen caused breast cancer by the time she turned 44, thousands of other daughters of “DES mothers” believe it is responsible for their developing cervical or vaginal cancer. These claims have been made since the 1970s, USA Today reports, and most lawsuits have been settled before reaching trial.
But, MacCormack’s case may end up going to trial. And, it is likely to spark another round of lawsuits from “DES daughters” when they draw the same conclusions as the Massachusetts woman, who believes the form of breast cancer she’s been diagnosed with is rare for a woman her age.
“The characteristics of my cancer were for women over 60 typically. It wasn’t the type of cancer a 40-year-old or a 44-year-old woman gets,” said MacCormack.
“When I read the research that’s been done, I found I had more chance of getting it because my mom took DES,” she said.
A Lilly spokesperson told USA Today the claims made in the DES breast cancer lawsuit is “without merit” and no evidence has been submitted which draws a link between use of the estrogen by mothers during those decades and breast cancer in their daughters. The drug companies named in the lawsuit have filed a motion to dismiss expert testimony evidence submitted by MacCormack and the other women in this case which aim to prove DES caused breast cancer. They believe the expert testimony is not based on science. Dismissing this evidence will likely mean the end of a chance for a jury trial.