Pfizer agrees to settle shareholder class action on Celebrex and Bextra

Pfizer’s Bextra has not been on the market in more than a decade, but the litigation tied to it and pain drug Celebrex continues to play out. The New York drugmaker has now put to rest a long-running class action by Pfizer shareholders who said a controversy over the drugs’ safety whacked the stock price and cost them a lot of money.

Pfizer last week reached an agreement-in-principle to resolve the securities class action case for all defendants. Pfizer spokeswoman Neha Wadhwa confirmed a report in Bloomberg, explaining in an email that the resolution is pending court approval and the terms are confidential until a formal agreement has been approved. She said the company and all the defendants denied any wrongdoing.

“This resolution reflects a desire by the company to avoid the distraction of continued litigation and focus on the needs of patients and prescribers,” the company statement said.

The settlement agreement comes just three months after a federal circuit court of appeals in New York reinstated the case on appeal. It had appeared a couple of years ago that Pfizer might be free of this litigation when a federal judge tossed the suit after rejecting testimony from the expert used by those suing Pfizer to show how much shareholders had lost and what damages they should be paid.

The litigation dates back to 2004 when a number of separate actions were first filed claiming that Pfizer hid information about the drugs' cardiovascular risks. When more info was revealed, the company’s share price tanked. It involves those who held Pfizer shares between Oct. 31, 2000 and Oct. 19, 2005, the year Pfizer pulled Bextra from the market.  

The pain drugs made Pfizer a lot of money, at one time being among the company’s best-selling meds. But the controversy over their risks has also cost it tremendously. In 2009, Pfizer agreed to hand over $2.3 billion to settle a U.S. Department of Justice probe into its marketing of Bextra and other drugs. And last year, the drugmaker settled another related investor suit for $400 million.

- see Pfizer's motion about the settlement

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