Pfizer Reaches Initial Deal Settling Celebrex, Bextra Suits

  • Suit filed in 2004 claims Pfizer misled the public about risks
  • Pfizer in 2009 paid $2.3 billion to end a related U.S. probe

Pfizer Inc. is settling a securities class-action lawsuit accusing it of keeping investors in the dark about the cardiovascular risks of the arthritis drugs Celebrex and Bextra, avoiding what could have been a drawn-out trial in the 12-year-old case.

Pfizer officials were accused in the suit of hiding information about studies suggesting use of the drugs may increase risks of heart attacks and strokes. The case was on track to go before a jury after the federal appeals court in New York in April ruled Pfizer must face the claims.

The same court on Wednesday put on hold Pfizer’s request for a re-hearing of the appeal so that a lower-court judge could consider the proposed accord with plaintiffs led by the Teachers’ Retirement System of Louisiana.

Neha Wadhwa, a spokeswoman for New York-based Pfizer, said the company wasn’t admitting to any wrongdoing under the settlement.

“This resolution reflects a desire by the company to avoid the distraction of continued litigation and focus on the needs of patients and prescribers,” Wadhwa said in an e-mailed statement.

Allan Ripp, an outside spokesman for the lead law firm in the case, Grant & Eisenhofer PA, said the terms of the settlement are confidential. He declined to comment further.

Earlier Settlement

In 2009, Pfizer agreed to pay $2.3 billion to settle U.S. claims that the drugmaker improperly marketed Bextra and other drugs. The total consisted of a $1.3 billion criminal penalty over Bextra marketing and $1 billion in civil fines in connection with improper sales of other medicines.

The Louisiana pension fund sued Pfizer in 2004 on behalf of investors who bought the drugmaker’s stock from 2000 to 2005. It claimed company executives were improperly touting Celebrex and Bextra as safer than competing drugs and that those statements artificially inflated the company’s stock price.

Pfizer in 2012 settled a related class-action suit led by Alaska Electrical Pension Fund, which had accused it of manipulating the results of a long-term clinical study of Celebrex’s effect on the gastrointestinal system.

The plaintiffs in that case claimed Pfizer released only a six-month portion of the study in April 2000 after the drug didn’t show the desired reduction in side effects compared with other drugs. Pfizer won that case in district court, only to have it reinstated on appeal in January 2009.

Warning Label

U.S. Food and Drug Administration officials rejected Pfizer’s request in February 2001 to market the drug without the standard GI warning label, sending the stock down about 9 percent, according to the complaint.

Pfizer settled hundreds of cases filed by individual plaintiffs in 2008, around the time that Celebrex, in the same class of medicines as Merck & Co.’s recalled Vioxx, was Pfizer’s third-best-selling drug. The cases were filed by customers who claimed they’d been injured.

Pfizer withdrew Bextra in April 2005 after it was tied to a potentially fatal skin condition.

The original case is In Re: Pfizer Securities Litigation, 1:04-cv-9866, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan). The appeal is 14-2853, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit (Manhattan).

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