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Pfizer to Pay $894 Million to Settle Celebrex, Bextra Lawsuits

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Pfizer could soon settle at least 90 percent of the personal injury lawsuits it faces over the painkillers Bextra and Celebrex.  The company announced today that it hopes to finalize a $894 million settlement by the end of the year.

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. In 2004, the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) ordered the painkiller off the market after an analysis of patients using Vioxx linked the defective drug to more than 27,000 heart attacks or sudden cardiac deaths in the U.S. from 1999 through 2003.

Last November, Merck announced a $4.85 billion settlement with the thousands of people who had filed Vioxx injury lawsuits.  Under the terms of the settlement, Merck set up a $4 billion fund for people who claim they suffered heart attacks as a result of Vioxx, and another $850 million fund for those who suffered ischemic strokes. Partial settlement payments started going out to some Vioxx plaintiffs last month.

Pfizer withdrew Bextra from the market in 2005, and  Celebrex is the only COX-2 inhibitor still on the market in the United States. Celebrex carries the FDA’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.

Pfizer said it hopes to finalize the settlement by the end of the year.  A spokesperson for the company said that Pfizer would also like to include many of the remaining personal injury lawsuits the settlement.  The company will fight those not settled with court motions or at trial.

According to The New York Times, $760 million of the Bextra and Celebrex settlement would go to settle roughly 7,000  personal injury cases, $60 million will cover settlements with attorneys general in the 33 states and the District of Columbia, and $89 million will cover consumer fraud class action cases over reimbursement for money spent on the two drugs.

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