Pfizer Coughs Up $450M to Brigham Young U. Over Celebrex

Pfizer Coughs Up $450M to Brigham Young U. Over Celebrex

May 2nd, 2012 // 12:46 pm @

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To put an end to what could have been an embarrassing and potentially costly episode, Pfizer has agreed to pay $450 million to Brigham Young University and endow a chair in the name of Daniel Simmons, a professor who claimed the drugmaker wrongfully cheated him out of money and credit for research that led to the discovery and commercialization of the best-selling Celebrex painkiller (see page 13 here). A trial had been scheduled to begin later this month.

Simmons maintained that he discovered the Cox-2 enzyme in 1991 that evolved into Celebrex and that the university signed a research agreement with Monsanto, which later became part of the big drugmaker. However, Simmons and BYU charged the deal was “fraudulently” ended without compensation, a former Monsanto chief scientific officer took credit for the discovery and that Simmons’ work was used as a roadmap for developing the painkiller (here is the lawsuit).

The trial was likely to generate some heat, because the proceedings may have pulled back the curtain on the dealings between the pharmaceutical industry and academia, which are increasing their ties as drugmakers turn to universities for help in replenishing their pipelines. For instance, BYU and Simmons charged that Monsanto engaged in such shenanigans as secretly testing a compound using confidential Simmons’ research, which they alleged was a breach of their agreement.

There was also the possibility of a financial impact on Pfizer, since BYU and Simmons sought sizeable damages. Celebrex has generated billions of dollars in sales over the years for Pfizer which was prompted, in part, to purchase Pharmacia in order to obtain the rights to the drug (Pharmacia merged with Monsanto, which had acquired GD Searle). Last year, Celebrex revenue exceeded $2.5 billion. And the pill notched $634 million in first quarter revenue this year. In other words, Pfizer coughed up sales that were generated in just 70 days in exchange for ending the lawsuit. Of course, this does not include legals fees racked up over several years.

But what took so long? Courtroom horseplay. In late 2009, a judge slapped Pfizer with more than $852,000 in attorney fees and other costs after finding the drugmaker stalled. In successfully arguing for the fine, BYU had pointed to repeated delays in providing it with evidence in the case and charged that some evidence had been destroyed. The judge chided Pfizer for “abuses and “repeated failures” in producing documents and ruled that “Pfizer has interfered with the judicial process


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