Mass. women at trial: Pregnancy drug caused cancer

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BOSTON — Eli Lilly and Co. failed to test a drug’s effect on fetuses before promoting it as a way to prevent miscarriages, a lawyer charged today in opening statements in a trial over whether four sisters’ breast cancer was caused by medication their mother took during pregnancy.

A lawyer for Eli Lilly told the jury there is no evidence the synthetic estrogen known as DES causes breast cancer in the daughters of women who took it. 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.

The sisters’ case is the first to go to trial out of scores of similar claims filed in Boston and around the country. A total of 51 women have DES lawsuits pending in Boston against more than a dozen companies that made or marketed the drug.

The sisters allege Eli Lilly urged doctors to prescribe DES without proof that it prevented miscarriages and other reproductive problems.

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