Shortly before Wyeth was set to enter court to continue its battle over the hormone replacement therapy Prempro, the US drug giant agreed to make an undisclosed payment patient Ellen Deutsch to settle the case after she blamed the hormone replacement therapy for the development of breast cancer.

The case "has been resolved to the mutual satisfaction of the parties,” a Wyeth spokesperson said, but he added that “the terms of the resolution and events leading up to it are confidential and sealed, so we won't be able to provide any further comment on this case.”

Ms Deutsch brought the case against Wyeth after taking Prempro and its predecessor, Premarin, for a total of seven years; it is this she blames for her eventual diagnosis of breast cancer.

This was to have been the first of around 250 cases Wyeth is facing in the New Jersey Superior Court, which were brought against the company in the wake of the 2002 Women’s Health Initiative study that found women given Prempro to treat menopausal symptoms were significantly more likely to develop breast cancer, stroke or cardiovascular complications.

All clear to state product liability suits

According to a Securities and Exchange Commission filing by Wyeth in May, it is facing approximately 5,200 actions brought on behalf of approximately 7,900 women in various federal and state courts throughout the USA for claims of breast cancer, stroke, ovarian cancer and heart disease, allegedly resulting from their use of Prempro or Premarin. But this could climb after New Jersey state court judge Bryan Garruto last month effectively gave the all-clear to state product liability lawsuits against drugmakers after he tossed aside arguments that the Food and Drug Administration has the exclusive right to determine whether a drug's label contains adequate warnings about any health risks.

Shares in Wyeth barely moved on the news yesterday at around $57.00, up from a year-low of $46.24. The Premarin family of products brought in $241 million during the first quarter of the year, down 9% on the same period 2006, but still making the drugs $1 billion-a-year earners for the US giant.