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DES Daughter Caitlin McCarthy: "Maybe DES Will Finally Get its Day"

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Boston, MAIn the wake of the somewhat surprising--not to mention abrupt--end to the DES lawsuit filed by the Melnick sisters against Eli Lilly, there has been a flurry of activity from people who were exposed to the drug, and those who support them. Although the DES breast cancer lawsuit was settled for an undisclosed amount, and without Lilly admitting any responsibility, people familiar with the situation say the time is coming for Lilly to finally admit its drug causes breast cancer.

DES (diethylstilbestrol) was given to pregnant women to prevent miscarriage. In the US, it was prescribed from the 1940s through 1971, although in some parts of the world it was still being used into the 1980s. Studies conducted as early as 1953 showed that DES did not actually reduce the risk of miscarriage, however the drug continued to be prescribed. Since then, DES has been linked to serious side effects in women who were exposed to the drug prior to birth (these women are often referred to as "DES daughters"). These side effects include an increased risk of breast cancer, early menopause and infertility. More recent studies suggest that even DES grandchildren could be at risk of side effects.

Recently, a lawsuit filed by four sisters who alleged their breast cancer was caused by DES, which was taken by their mother while she was pregnant with them in the 1950s, abruptly ended after a Harvard public health doctor testified that DES has been shown to cause cancer.

Dr. Hans-Olov Adami testified that the Harvard Women's Health Watch and the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies has stated that women who were exposed to DES in utero, "experienced important and devastating effects many years later, including an elevated risk of breast cancer." He further testified that the evidence was applicable to any DES daughter who developed breast cancer after the age of 40 or 50, so long as she did not have other high breast cancer risks. Finally, Dr. Adami called the DES experiment on women a human tragedy.

"Lilly started their examination of him and during the break they approached the judge and wanted to settle," says Caitlin McCarthy, a DES daughter, activist and screenwriter of “Wonder Drug” (a feature film about DES, now in development) who was present for part of the lawsuit but was not a plaintiff in the suit. "The plaintiffs had so many fantastic people prepared to go on the stand. I think Lilly knew they would be buried. We've known in this community for years that DES causes cancer and infertility and finally the science backs that up."

McCarthy says the courtroom was filled with supporters of the DES daughters.

"I was there for opening statements and I got a sense of energy in the courtroom for the plaintiffs," McCarthy, who was previously interviewed for Lawyers and Settlements in August 2012, says. "It was palpable. There were many DES daughters in the courtroom who weren't part of the trial, but they took time out of their lives to support the sisters. Behind the plaintiffs there was row upon row upon row filled with DES daughters. I think that was a powerful visual."

Lilly has defended itself--and its drug--saying DES does not cause breast cancer and that they will vigorously fight lawsuits. That claim, and the lack of follow-up on mediation for other lawsuits, angers the DES daughters.

"In January 2012, Lilly was ordered to mediation with the plaintiffs' lawyers for pending cases," McCarthy says. "Lilly has treated it like a joke, which is why the Melnick sisters went to trial. Lilly’s MO is that the plaintiffs will die off and they would rather pay money to expensive lawyers than to these women. I really think that's their attitude."

As a result of the lack of movement from Lilly toward mediation, one DES plaintiff created a petition aimed at getting Eli Lilly to honor its obligations. The petition is called "Eli Lilly--Fess Up on DES!" and is sponsored by Patricia Royall, DES daughter.

"It's embarrassing for Lilly to say DES doesn't cause breast cancer; that it's all genetic," McCarthy says. "It's arrogant and insulting to people's intelligence. We're not going away. They can't shut us up, so they're going to have to deal with us. They will have to admit the truth. They need to accept responsibility. It's not about the money for us, it's about justice and recognition that those of us who have been affected by DES are hurt in a way people not affected by it don't understand. I live under a medical guillotine. I don't have cancer now, but I'm at a much higher risk because I was exposed to DES. That influences how I live my life. When I go to my annual physical, you better believe that fear is with me. I wonder if this appointment is the one where I get the bad news.

"Lilly should just admit that DES has been shown to cause breast cancer and honor its promise to settle lawsuits. They've been saying this for more than a year now, and they haven't done it. This is just going to get more embarrassing if they don't. Lilly’s CEO needs to pull a Lance Armstrong, call Oprah Winfrey, and admit to the lies about DES," McCarthy says.

Reflecting on the DES victims, McCarthy says, "I'm in awe of every single plaintiff in these breast cancer cases. This has taken years and many of them have died along the way. I'm in awe that some of them have chosen to spend their remaining days fighting this, vowing not to go away, but to fight these drug companies. They've blazed the trail for DES victims and other drug disaster victims as well. We just saw a German company apologize for thalidomide. After 42 years, maybe DES will finally get its day."


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Posted by

I am a DES daughter born in 1948. My mother took this drug!! I have leukemia and breast cancer and I know in my heart that this drug caused this. My daughter just passed away from Glioblastoma Brain Cancer. I have records of the doctor my mother had and the hospital where I was born. I say make them pay! The drug company should not be able to get away with this. They have ruined so many's lives. No you can't put a price on it but they should not get away with this!!!

Posted by

I feel for the DES daughters, who have suffered so many awful effects including cancer and infertility. However, there's another group of DES victims: the DES sons, many of whom were born with intersex-related genital abnormalities, and as adults now suffer from infertility, endocrine disorders and gender identity problems as a result of being exposed to this highly potent artificial female hormone during the time their reproductive organs and brain were developing. When are they going to have their day in court?

Posted by

I am a DES Daughter and for Eli Lilly to say diethylstilbestrol did not give me breast cancer is simply a lie. DES has ruined all my reproductive organs. Breasts are also part of the reproductive system. DES is synthetic estrogen. The dose I received was equivalent to thousands of birth control pills. To say that had no effect on myself as a developing fetus is not only unscientific but irresponsible. Eli Lilly KNEW the dangers of DES yet they continued to push it on the public because it was a cash cow for them. DES Daughters, it has been PROVEN scientifically, have a two and a half times greater chance of developing breast cancer than the average female. We also have many other health risks due to literally swimming in estrogen before birth. I will fight Eli Lilly with every breath I have. DES is the silent Thalidomide, but DES Daughters will not be silenced!

Posted by

1 in 9 women get breast cancer so how do you know if yours was caused by this prenatal exposure vs another cause since the majority of women don't have any risk factors?

Posted by

I was a victim of the Drug,,it gave me Diabetes and Heart disease,,i won a lawsuit ,I suppose a life is only worth $90,000 ,,WOW,,what a slap in the face,,we are nothing but Lab Rats to big Pharma,,,shame on the FDA,,Shame a Big Pharma,,,my life has been shattered,,i now live off of SSD ,,and its is just penneys to the income i once had,,No one will give you a Job after you have been Disabled and have a black mark,,Diabetes is a Death Sentence,,but a very slow one,,not to mention the other problems that come with it,,I was told to take the insult of a Settlement or i would get nothing,,,How can you put a price on someones life,,5 million would not of been suffiecient,,and i only got $90,000,, i made that every year before Zyprexa ruined my life,,,I will share my experience with any one i can help,,try to get a personal lawyer,,not a Class Action,,or you will end up like me,,my money is gone, my income stinks,,and im in a No Where Rut,,I was told that the Eli Lilly knew it cause this problem,,and decided that the ''Billions'' they would make,,versus the ''Millions '' in lawsuits,,That was a chance they were willing to take,,so,,what that says is ,our lives were worth nothing,,and we were just Lab Rats

Posted by

Thank you Caitlin for re-posting this article - it is so important to get the message out there and keep it alive for many more to read about the dreadful effects this drug has had and still has not only on the DES mums and daughters but also DES sons and their children.......FESS UP Eli Lilly!

Posted by

Thank you for running this article. It's so important for the truth to get out about Eli Lilly and DES.

Posted by

Remember the Eli Lilly Zyprexa scandal.

The Eli Lilly company made an astounding $69 BILLION on Zyprexa that they PUSHED on the elderly and underage children (*Viva Zyprexa* Lilly sales rep slogan) with wanton disregard for the side effects
The Zyprexa antipsychotic drug,whose side effects can include weight gain and diabetes, was sold to Veterans,children in foster care, elderly in nursing homes.
*Five at Five* was the Zyprexa sales rep slogan, meaning *5mg dispensed at 5pm would keep patients quiet*.

*Tell the truth don't be afraid*-- Daniel Haszard


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