Pfizer settles 80 percent of more than 2,700 lawsuits claiming problems with smoking cessation drug Chantix

Pfizer settles 80 percent of more than 2,700 lawsuits claiming problems with smoking cessation drug Chantix

March 4th, 2013 // 1:20 pm @

Pfizer Inc. has settled about 80 percent of the more than 2,700 lawsuits filed against it in federal and state courts nationwide over its smoking cessation drug Chantix, according to a company filing with a federal regulator this week.

The company says it is assuming a loss of $273 million for 2012 to settle those cases and expects to spend an estimated $15 million more to settle remaining ones in the future, according to the filing Thursday with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

Most of the more than 2,700 lawsuits filed nationwide by people who complained of psychological problems, including suicides or suicide attempts, were consolidated as a multidistrict litigation _ or MDL _ in Birmingham federal court under U.S. District Court Judge Inge Johnson.

Among the lawsuits settled were 254 cases being handled by the Birmingham law firm Cory Watson Crowder & DeGaris.

“We have reached a resolution of the litigation on behalf of all of the Chantix clients of Cory Watson Crowder & DeGaris, subject to the approval of our clients,” Ernest Cory who represents the 254 clients in 28 states, stated in a prepared release.

The terms of the settlement are confidential, Cory said. He said he is pleased that his clients will be able to put the litigation behind them.

Two other cases from Alabama and Minnesota, which had been set to become test cases in the MDL, had been settled in the past five months just prior to trials.

In 2010 Johnson appointed Cory to serve as the plaintiff’s lead plaintiff’s counsel for the MDL cases. “From the beginning, our firm has taken this litigation very seriously and I will continue to serve as Plaintiffs’ Lead Counsel until all remaining plaintiffs have resolved their cases and there is no longer a need for an MDL,” Cory said.

Pfizer released a statement today regarding the settlements. The company said it continues to stand by the Chantix drug as effective in helping people quit smoking.

“The resolution of these cases reflects a desire by the Company to focus on the needs of patients and prescribers, and return the conversation to how Chantix can help smokers quit. Chantix has been approved for use in more than 100 countries and has been prescribed to 18 million patients worldwide, including more than 9 million in the United States.”

“Chantix is an important, FDA-approved medication and effective treatment option for adult smokers who want to quit,” according to the Pfizer statement. “Smoking is the number one cause of preventable death in the United States, and the health benefits of quitting smoking are immediate and substantial. We are confident in the benefit-risk profile of this medication and are committed to defending it.”

“At the same time, we have explored opportunities to enter into settlements on favorable terms and have reached agreements in principle with certain law firms to resolve their cases,” Pfizer stated. “The settlements are subject to the execution of final agreements.”

“The agreements-in-principle come just months after Pfizer released the results of a clinical trial of adult smokers with major depressive disorders, which met its primary and secondary endpoints,” according to the Pfizer statement.

Pfizer first released that it had settled a large group of the cases in a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission late Thursday.

“A number of individual lawsuits have been filed against us in various federal and state courts alleging suicide, attempted suicide and other personal injuries as a result of the purported ingestion of Chantix, as well as economic loss,” Pfizer explained in the filing. “Plaintiffs in these actions seek compensatory and punitive damages and the disgorgement of profits resulting from the sale of Chantix.”

“In late-November 2012, we began advanced settlement discussions with various law firms that represent the plaintiffs in the majority of these actions as well as persons who have asserted claims but not filed legal actions,” according to the filing. “As of February 2013, we had settled, or entered into definitive agreements or agreements-in-principle to settle, approximately 80% of the known Chantix claims in the U.S., including actions pending in the MDL (multidistrict litigation in federal court) and in state courts.”

“In connection with these settlements and settlement agreements and agreements-in-principle, we recorded aggregate charges in 2012 of approximately $273 million,” according to the SEC filing. “In addition, we recorded aggregate charges in 2012 of approximately $15 million that provide for the expected costs to resolve all remaining Chantix actions in the MDL and in state courts and all other known Chantix claims in the U.S.”

“The approximately $15 million aggregate charges are an estimate, and while we cannot estimate the range of reasonably possible loss in excess of the amounts accrued given the uncertainties inherent in this litigation,…. additional charges may be required in the future in connection with certain pending actions and claims and unknown claims relating to Chantix.”

“The federal Chantix actions were consolidated in the MDL more than three years ago, and the unresolved Chantix federal and state actions and other known, unresolved Chantix claims could take many more years to resolve,” according to Pfizer’s SEC filing.

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