The state Court of Appeals has ordered the Eli Lilly pharmaceutical company to pay $500,000 in damages to a woman who contracted cancer as a result of the drug DES given to her mother before she was born.
The court unanimously upheld the award to Joyce Bichler, who suffered cervical and vaginal cancer when she was 17, even though it was not certain whether Eli Lilly manufactured the specific DES drug her mother took.
DES, or diethylstilbestrol, was commonly given to women to prevent miscarriages until it was banned in 1971 as a possible threat to the health of unborn children. The federal Food and Drug Administration later confirmed a link between DES and certain types of vaginal or cervical cancer.
Bichler, who brought suit against Eli Lilly in 1974, had all of her reproductive organs and more than half her vagina removed as a result of her disease.
Bichler's mother took the drug in 1953 while pregnant. A trial jury said the woman's attorneys did not prove that Eli Lilly manufactured the drug her mother took.
But the jury determined that Eli Lilly and other manufacturers wrongfully marketed DES without first testing it on laboratory mice to see if it caused harmful side effects. The jury awarded $500,000 in damages, and the appellate court agreed.