Pfizer has agreed to resolve most of the personal injury cases, consumer fraud cases and state attorneys general claims involving its non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) pain medication Bextra, following court rulings in favor of Celebrex. Both were linked to adverse cardiovascular events.
The personal injury suits alleged that Celebrex and Bextra caused heart attacks and strokes. Additionally, consumer fraud complaints, as well as lawsuits by 33 states and the District of Columbia, alleged improper promotion of the drugs. Pfizer voluntarily withdrew Bextra from the U.S. market in 2005, but Celebrex is still marketed. Merck removed Vioxx, another Cox-2 inhibitor, in 2005.
Pfizer faced about 8,000 lawsuits, Jayne Conroy, a plaintiffs' lawyer in the case, told the Wall Street Journal (WSJ). The company said that the settlements will resolve more than 90 percent of the known personal injury claims brought by law firms representing persons who allege that its NSAID pain medications were the cause of a heart attack, stroke or other injury. Pfizer added that it will work to finalize agreements with each of the law firms with which it has agreements in principle before the end of the year.
“Inevitably, litigation can be distracting and putting these matters behind us helps our shareholders,” said Amy W. Schulman, senior vice president and general counsel of Pfizer, who added that “now is the right time to resolve these matters.”
The New York City-based Pfizer saw sales of $589 million last quarter for Celebrex.
The WSJ reported that the large size of the settlement heightens the pressure to cut costs, as Pfizer's blockbuster cholesterol drug, Lipitor, loses market share. In fact, the company recently announced that it was abandoning its efforts to develop medicines for heart disease.
Pfizer said it will reflect the significant, non-recurring items as a third quarter pre-tax charge of $894 million ($640 million after-tax) to reported earnings. The charge includes amounts of $745 million applicable to personal injury claims; $60 million applicable to state attorneys general settlements; and $89 million applicable to consumer fraud class action claims.