Athough the lawyer for Eli Lilly & Co. has stated that “there is no evidence the synthetic estrogen known as diethylstilbestrol, or DES, causes breast cancer in the daughters of women who took it,” four sisters, Francine Melnick, Andrea Andrews, Donna McNeely and Michele Fecho, claiming that it was responsible for each of them getting breast cancer in their 40’s and that their mother took it during pregnancy. They were diagnosed with breast cancer between 1997 and 2003 and had treatments ranging from lump-removal surgery to a full mastectomy, radiation and chemotherapy.
Their lawyer, Aaaron Levine also told the Boston jury now hearing the case that their mother did not take DES while carrying a fifth daughter, who has not developed breast cancer.
The sisters' case is the first to go to trial out of dozens of similar claims filed in Boston and around the country. A total of 51 women, so called "DES Daughters," have lawsuits pending in Boston against more than a dozen companies that made or marketed the drug.
In turn, a lawyer for the pharmaceutical giant stated that there are, “No medical records show the mother of the four women in the Boston case took DES, he said, or that if she did take it, that it was made by Eli Lilly.
According to the CDC, diethylstilbestrol (DES) is an estrogen that was first manufactured in a laboratory in 1938, and prescribed to women from 1938-1971. As a result, an estimated 5-10 million pregnant women and the children born of these pregnancies were exposed to DES. Physicians prescribed DES to pregnant women on the theory that miscarriages and premature births occurred because some pregnant women did not produce enough estrogen naturally. At the time, physicians thought DES was safe and would prevent miscarriages and pre-term (early) births.”
However, despite the fact that a published research in 1951 showed that DES did not prevent miscarriages or premature births, doctors throughout the US continued to prescribe it until 1971. It was then that the FDA finally pulled it from the market after DES was found to cause a rare vaginal cancer in girls and young women who had been exposed to the drug while still in their mothers’ wombs.
A further study lead by a researcher at the National Cancer Institute in 2011, suggested that the risk of breast cancer is “nearly double in DES daughters over 40.”
The Menick vs Eli Lilly trial, which opened in Boston yesterday, is expected to contine for several weeks.
"I'm sad for my mother who took this because she wanted to have us and wasn't explained the risks of what she took," Andrea Melnick Andrews told CBS Boston last week