Pfizer to settle Bextra, Celebrex lawsuits

By Ransdell Pierson

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Pfizer Inc said on Friday it plans to pay $894 million to settle lawsuits alleging that its withdrawn Bextra painkiller and widely used Celebrex arthritis drug harmed U.S. patients and defrauded consumers.

Pfizer said the money would be paid out under three separate tentative settlements — including one that resolves claims by 33 states and the District of Columbia primarily related to Bextra marketing practices.

“It’s good that Pfizer is settling the majority of these cases because these things tend to drag on for five to 10 years and take a lot of focus off running the company,” said Jon LeCroy, an analyst with Natixis Bleichroeder.

LeCroy said Wall Street has closely followed the Bextra and Celebrex cases because Bextra was sold only briefly. Moreover, he said Celebrex has not been shown to have the same cardiovascular risks as Vioxx, a similar drug that Merck & Co Inc withdrew in 2004.

New York-based Pfizer said it has taken a pretax charge of $894 million in the third quarter for the proposed settlements, and that the funds should also be sufficient to cover personal injury cases that have not yet been resolved.

The company, which still sells Celebrex, said it decided to settle to eliminate the legal distractions, although it admitted no wrongdoing.

“Putting all these matters behind Pfizer makes good sense from the company point of view and with respect to patients and doctors,” Amy Schulman, Pfizer’s general counsel, said in an interview.

The charge includes $745 million to resolve personal injury claims, $60 million to settle with the states over Bextra marketing practices and $89 million to resolve consumer fraud class-action cases that allege Bextra and Celebrex promotions caused financial harm.  Continued…

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