From the early 1940s to the late 1970s more than three million pregnant women were prescribed the hormone diethylstilbestrol (DES) to prevent problems such as miscarriage and premature births. Today, more than 40 years later, the sons and daughters of those women are still suffering from the devastating effects of this drug.
Research shows that DES causes cancer, infertility, pregnancy difficulties, and other side effects in the children of users. Cases against the companies that once manufactured DES have been filed by scores of women, many whom have breast cancer. The most recent cases went to trial in early 2013, despite the fact that DES hasn’t been sold since Eli Lilly stopped manufacturing it in 1997.
California Supreme Court Decision in 1980 Led to Compensation
DES manufacturers faced a large number of lawsuits in the 1970s, and in 1980 the California Supreme Court held that manufacturers had to pay damages based on their market share at the time the plaintiffs purchased and used the drug (Sindell v. Abbott Laboratories). The plaintiff in this case was a young woman who had developed cancer because of her mother’s use of DES during pregnancy.
DES Side Effects Include Breast Cancer
The effects of DES on the daughters of women who took it while they were pregnant first came to light in a famous study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, which showed that seven in eight women who suffered from vaginal clear cell adenocarcinoma were born to women who used DES while pregnant. Subsequently, researchers concluded that diethylstilbestrol is a carcinogen.
As for DES sons, the effects are subtler, such as non-cancerous epididymal cysts, left-handedness, and possible “feminization” of males exposed to diethylstilbestrol in utero. DES is also a known teratogen, meaning it can pass through the placental barrier into developing fetuses. DES daughters can suffer from the following DES birth defects: vaginal abnormalities, T-shaped uterus, and an increased risk of infertility.
A Forbes article published in October 2011 reported that a study backed by the federal government involving 4,653 DES daughters and 1,927 non-DES daughters determined additional risks for DES children. It found the following differences between DES daughters versus non-DES daughters:
- Breast Cancer: 3.9 percent; 2.2 percent
- Cervical pre-cancer: 6.9 percent; 3.4 percent
- Infertility: 33.3 percent; 15.5 percent
- Early menopause: 5.1 percent; 1.7 percent
For those who were able to become pregnant, here are the differences between DES daughters versus non-DES daughters:
- Preterm delivery: 53.3 percent; 17.8 percent
- Miscarriage: 50.3 percent; 38.6 percent
- Tubal pregnancy: 14.6 percent; 2.9 percent
- Stillbirth: 8.9 percent; 2.6 percent
- High blood pressure during pregnancy: 26.3 percent; 13.7 percent.
Are you a DES Son or DES Daughter?
DES has been linked to side effects that can linger in families for generations. At one point, these types of problems were so pervasive that the media coined the terms “DES daughter” and “DES son” to refer to children born to mothers who used the drug while pregnant.
Now, as new long-term effects of DES are discovered, DES children are filing additional lawsuits. The Melnick sisters of Boston sued manufacturer Eli Lilly, alleging that the breast cancer they all have was caused by the synthetic hormone DES their mother took during pregnancy in the 1950s. The case went to trial in the first week of January 2013, but on the second day of testimony a settlement was announced, according to the Associated Press. This is the first of a number of cases set to go to trial. The settlement amount is unknown. About 51 women, including the Melnick sisters, filed suits in Boston against a dozen manufacturers or marketers of the drug, according to the AP.
RLG’s Lawyers Will Make Things Easier
The process of demanding compensation for the harm you’ve suffered can be complicated, even if it doesn’t seem fair that you should have to go through even more trouble to be made whole again. The lawyers at the Rottenstein Law Group believe that obtaining legal satisfaction from those who harmed you shouldn’t require more hardship. That’s why we do everything we can to streamline the process, and we will file a DES lawsuit on your behalf if necessary.
If you or your mother took DES, and you believe it harmed you, contact RLG today.