Pfizer Inc said that it plans to pay $894 million to settle lawsuits alleging that its withdrawn Bextra painkiller and widely used Celebrex arthritis drug harmed U.S. patients and defrauded consumers.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 fewer than three separate tentative settlements, one of which would also resolve claims by 33 states and the District of Columbia primarily related to promotional practices for Bextra.
New York-based Pfizer said it has taken a pre-tax charge of $894 million in the third quarter for the proposed settlements, and that the money should also be sufficient to cover personal injury cases that have not yet been resolved.
The company, which still sells Celebrex, said it had decided to move forward with the settlements to eliminate the legal distractions, although it admitted to no wrongdoing.
"Putting all these matters behind Pfizer makes good sense from the company point of view and with respect to patients and doctors," Pfizer General Counsel Amy Schulman said in an interview.
Bextra and Celebrex belong to the same class of painkillers as Merck & Co's Vioxx, which was withdrawn in 2004 after being linked to heart attacks among long-time users. Merck has come to terms with most of the thousands of U.S. patients who claimed to have been harmed by its drug, through a $4.85 billion settlement.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2005 asked Pfizer to withdraw Bextra from U.S. drugstores, citing its possible risk of causing heart problems and reports of a potentially fatal skin reaction called Stevens-Johnson syndrome in people taking the drug.Schulman declined to provide a breakdown of how much of the money being set aside would satisfy Bextra claims, or Celebrex lawsuits.
But she said federal and state courts have ruled there is no reliable scientific evidence that Celebrex increases risk of heart attack and stroke.