The title of the blog almost sounds like a Hollywood movie. Instead, it was one of those instances where fact seemed stranger than fiction. Dr Michael Dey was on the stand, as a witness for Wyeth Pharmaceuticals.
Earlier, Wyeth's defense counsel had filed a brief in support of its motion, that women assumed the risk of breast cancer, when they chose to take Prempro, a hormone therapy drug. The basis of this motion, in part, is that the language of the drug label had inserted the following language: "Potential Risk".
That has been part of Wyeth's defense. Right now, a Philadelphia jury is being asked to determine whether such language was enough warning to relieve Wyeth from responsibility, for causing breast cancer. Of course, the public has now become used to TV commercials that include so many warning symptoms, followed by "Ask your doctor if it's right for you", that these commercials have become fodder for comedians. Plus, these attached information sheets are several folded pages, in small print and almost require the skill of a neurosurgeon to unfold them.
Notwithstanding, Dr Dey took the stand to testify about the warning. In a 2008 Press Release, he had been appointed as President of Wyeth's newly created Women's Healthcare Business Division. He has been employed by Wyeth since 1984.
Prior to the questions about the Wyeth label, Dr Dey was asked about the sales call notes of the Wyeth drug reps, that had been produced in discovery. Those notes show a huge amount of information that show doctors receiving gifts for prescription production. The jury will consider whether those gifts were incentives for prescription, I guess, or rewards for looking out for patients.
Dr Dey answered questions about such things as Champagne, wine and lavish dinners: tickets to sporting events, The Ice Capades, theater shows and the Circus; and lavish trips. According to courtroom witnesses, this seemed to throw the doctor off a bit.
Then, Dr Dey was asked about the risk of breast cancer. Like a political survey, he was asked to choose whether he would say that the effects of the drug were a) a risk of cancer; b) a potential risk; or c) No risk of cancer at all. His response on the record:
4 A Based on what was in the label, there was a
5 potential risk. I would have said as a scientist
6 there is a risk.
Then the Judge, presiding over the trial, decided to ask the Dr again, about his answer. The impression was that he could not believe what he had just heard:.
13 THE COURT: I
14 asked the question, is it a risk or a
15 potential risk?
16 THE WITNESS: It depends on whether you
17 are asking me as a scientist or what's in the
19 THE COURT: Oh, I see.
20 THE WITNESS: As a scientist I would
21 say there is a risk.
22 THE COURT: What's in the label?
23 THE WITNESS: The label says there is a
24 potential risk. As I recall.
It will be interesting to see how the jury reacts to this. Did the doctor decide to just be honest? Is he no longer worried about the consequence, since Pfizer has completed the purchased Wyeth? Was he still thinking about all those theater tickets and trips? I guess we will see what the jury thinks, in the next couple of days.