With ruling, Pfizer can escape some claims in legal battle over Chantix carcinogen allegations

Pfizer chalked up a key win in its legal battle surrounding the now-recalled smoking cessation drug Chantix after a New York judge narrowed the scope of the arguments in play.

The consolidated class action lawsuit was brought by Chantix users and payers and levies a number of accusations at Pfizer, including arguments of negligence and unjust enrichment tied to the company's representation of the drug as being free of nitrosamines.

In 2021, Chantix was linked to a potential carcinogen after Canadian health authorities tested the drug for impurities. While Pfizer quickly paused global shipments, a spokesperson stressed at the time that the benefits of the med "outweigh the very low potential risks, if any, posed by nitrosamine exposure." 

The company then recalled certain lots, leading to a shortage, before pulling the med nationwide in the U.S. Lawsuits began popping up around that time and were eventually consolidated in the class action case.

While Pfizer’s efforts to get the complaint dismissed entirely didn’t pass muster, the court did deny several of the plaintiff’s claims. In a ruling this week, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York threw out claims that the company fraudulently misstated or omitted information about the medicine's risk.

The drugmaker is “pleased” that the judge dismissed the bulk of the claims and believes that the remaining claims “also lack merit,” a company spokesperson said in an emailed statement.

“Pfizer stands behind the safety and efficacy of Chantix, which is supported by an extensive clinical program and more than 15 years of real-world use in millions of patients who have used the medication to help them quit smoking,” the representative added. “During that time, no medical, scientific or regulatory body has determined that Chantix could cause or increase the risk of cancer.”

Pfizer isn’t the only one dealing with carcinogen-related lawsuits. GSK has been battling thousands of personal injury lawsuits for years due to allegations of harm from its heartburn med Zantac. Most recently, an unsealed whistleblower lawsuit from the laboratory that first called out the pill’s carcinogenic risks claimed that GSK knew of the risks for decades.

Chantix, which the FDA first approved in 2006, had been at the center of a legal battle even before the carcinogen concerns.

Back in 2013, Pfizer forked over $273 million and settled more than 2,000 lawsuits surrounding Chantix’s alleged links to suicide attempts and other psychiatric disturbances. That led to the FDA slapping a boxed warning on the med alerting patients to psychiatric side effects.