Pfizer Negotiating Celebrex, Bextra Settlements

<"">Celebrex and <"">Bextra maker Pfizer Inc. has begun to settle injury claims against the painkillers.  It is estimated that between 7,000 and 9,000 Celebrex and Bextra cases have been filed by people who claim the defective painkillers caused heart attacks and strokes. According to a report in Friday’s Wall Street Journal, lawyers representing Pfizer have indicated the company is willing to pay as much as $500 million to resolve all outstanding cases.

Celebrex and Bextra are COX-2 inhibitors, a class of drugs that also includes Merck’s recalled Vioxx.  Such medications are linked to an increased risk of blood clots, heart attacks and strokes. Pfizer withdrew Bextra from the market in 2005, and  Celebrex is the only COX-2 inhibitor still on the market in the United States.

According to The Wall Street Journal, Pfizer has reached settlements with three law firms representing more than 200 of the thousands who sued over the drugs. Firms have been offered $40,000 to $50,000 a client to resolve Celebrex cases and as much as $200,000 a client for Bextra.  The Wall Street Journal reported that unlike Merck’s recent mass settlement of litigation involving Vioxx, Pfizer is attempting to resolve its Bextra and Celebrex lawsuits on a firm-by-firm basis.

Celebrex carries the Food and Drug Administration’s strictest “black-box” warning on its drug label, stating that it may cause an increased risk of serious cardiovascular events such as heart attacks and strokes.  Despite its apparent risk, Celebrex continued to generate $2.3 billion in sales in 2007, a 12 percent increase from the previous year.

Last month, the National Cancer Institute released an analysis of six Celebrex studies that included 7,950 patients.  According to The Wall Street Journal, the analysis showed Celebrex was associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular death, heart attack, stroke, heart failure or thromboembolic event, or events related to blood clots, compared to patients not taking the drug.  The researchers found that patients receiving the highest dose of Celebrex of 400 milligrams twice daily had a nearly three times higher risk of heart attacks and strokes than patients not taking the drug. Patients taking a lower dose of Celebrex, 400 milligrams once daily, had a 10% higher risk of a cardiovascular event. The study did not look at patients taking  a once-daily, 200-milligram dose of Celebrex, which represents the way the drug is most commonly prescribed.

The first Bextra trial was due to begin today in federal court in San Francisco. But a lawyer involved in the case told The Wall Street Journal that the parties agreed to adjourn the case so Pfizer could attempt to settle Celebrex and Bextra cases across the country.

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