Las Vegas Sun

April 16, 2014

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Deceptive trade suit against drug makers to proceed

Nevada has won the right to continue its deceptive trade practices suit against companies that made the hormone replacement therapy drug for women in menopause and for protection against heart problems, Alzheimer's and other ailments.

The Nevada Supreme Court said District Judge James Bixler in Clark County was wrong in dismissing the state's suit against Wyeth Pharmaceuticals, Pfizer and Pharmacia & Upjohn.

The state said the companies disseminated deceptive information to Nevada doctors and patients on the benefits of the drug.

The state claims the hormone replacement drug increases the risks of breast cancer, blood clots, ovarian cancer and heart attacks.

The companies deny the allegations.

The statute of limitation for bringing the suit is four years. Bixler said the Consumer Protection Bureau of the state attorney general's office failed to bring the action within that limit.

The suit was filed in November 2009. The drug companies said the state knew about complaints filed by Nevada women beginning in July 2004.

The state's appeal was brought by the law firm of White & Wetherall with offices in Las Vegas and Reno.

The Supreme Court said the civil suits brought by the women were filed by the same attorneys who were hired by the state. And these lawyers supplied many of the same underlying facts.

Wyeth attached previous complaints of the women to its motion to dismiss, saying this shows the state failed to bring the suit in time.

The court, in a unanimous decision written by Chief Justice Michael Douglas, said the state should be permitted to provide counter evidence and switch the case to a summary judgment.

The ruling includes comments by Bixler that his dismissal decision was "relying on a lot of information that clearly fell outside the pleadings." Bixler "suspected" the state only filed its suit after being encouraged to do so by the private attorneys so they could build momentum for the cases they filed for the women, the court said.

The court said Bixler was not entitled to consider matters outside of the pleadings. "We remand this case to the District Court so that this case may proceed and its substantive issues may be fully developed," Douglas wrote.

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