By Terry Baynes
(Reuters) - Pfizer Inc has agreed to settle the majority of
lawsuits alleging its smoking cessation drug, Chantix, caused
suicide and other injuries, the company said in its annual
report filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
The United States' largest drugmaker has entered into
agreements to settle around 80 percent of the more than 2,700
lawsuits over Chantix, costing the company around $273 million
in 2012, according to the report filed on Feb. 28. Pfizer also
said it has set aside $15 million to resolve all of the
remaining claims in the United States.
Pfizer introduced Chantix in the United States in 2006,
hoping it would become a multibillion-dollar product and revive
flagging profits. But starting in 2008, consumers inundated the
company with lawsuits claiming that Pfizer knew about
psychological side effects related to the drug but failed to
inform doctors and patients.
By 2009, the Food and Drug Administration had required a
so-called black-box label on the drug warning of the risk of
suicidal thoughts, depression and other behavior changes. That
same year, federal lawsuits filed across the country were
consolidated in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of
Pfizer said in its SEC filing that it began advanced
settlement discussions in November with several law firms that
represent the plaintiffs in the majority of the lawsuits.
The SEC report comes on the heels of settlements the company
reached in a pair of bellwether cases that recently were set to
go to trial. In October Pfizer reached a settlement with the
widow of Mark Alan Whitely, who killed himself after taking the
anti-smoking drug. In January the company settled claims with
Billy Bedsole, who said the drug caused him to have suicidal
thoughts and other problems.
"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,"
Pfizer spokesman Chris Loder said in a statement. Many of the
agreements still have to be finalized, he said.
Ernest Cory, one of the lead plaintiffs' lawyers, said in a
statement that he had reached a private resolution with Pfizer
on behalf of 254 clients in 28 states. Cory said he would
continue to serve as lead counsel until all of the remaining
plaintiffs in the multidistrict litigation resolved their
In setting aside $15 million, Pfizer noted in the report
that its future losses may exceed that amount. The alleged
injuries vary widely from completed suicide to attempted suicide
requiring hospitalization to worsened depression and anxiety,
the company said. The discovery process has not yet begun for
most of the unresolved cases, the report said.
Chantix has been approved for use in more than 100 countries
and has been prescribed to 18 million patients, including 9
million in the United States, according to Pfizer.
The multidistrict litigation is In re Chantix (Varenicline)
Products Liability Litigation, U.S. District Court, Northern
District of Alabama, No. 09-2039.
For the plaintiffs: Ernest Cory of Cory Watson Crowder &
For Pfizer: Matthew Holian of DLA Piper.
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