BOSTON — Four sisters who claimed their breast cancer was caused by a drug their mother took during pregnancy in the 1950s reached a settlement Wednesday with Eli Lilly and Co. in the first of scores of similar claims across the country to go to trial.
Neither Eli Lilly nor lawyers for the women would disclose the financial terms of the settlement, which was announced on the second day of testimony during a federal trial in Boston.
Eli Lilly said it continues to believe its medication "did not cause the conditions alleged in this lawsuit" but said the settlement was in its "best interest."
A total of 51 women, including the Melnick sisters, filed lawsuits in Boston against more than a dozen companies that made or marketed a synthetic estrogen known as DES.
DES, or diethylstilbestrol, was prescribed to millions of pregnant women over three decades to prevent miscarriages, premature births and other problems. It was taken off the market in the early 1970s after it was linked to a rare vaginal cancer in women whose mothers had used it.
Studies later showed that the drug did not prevent miscarriages.
Attorney Aaron Levine, representing the Melnick sisters, told the jury during opening statements that Eli Lilly failed to test the drug's effect on fetuses before promoting it as a way to prevent miscarriages.
Attorney Andrew Meyer, who has handled numerous medical malpractice cases, said the settlement in this case could signal settlements in other cases.