Supremes refuse to spike Pfizer securities case

The U.S. Supreme Court backed another set of pharma investors trying to sue a drugmaker about its handling of a big drug safety issue. This time, it's Pfizer that appealed to the Supremes for relief from a securities lawsuit--and lost. The high court rejected Pfizer's appeal, allowing the securities-fraud suit to proceed.

It marks the second time in in as many weeks that the court made way for a securities suit against Big Pharma; just last week, the Supremes allowed an investor suit against Merck over Vioxx safety. In the Pfizer case, the drug in question is Celebrex, a cousin to Vioxx: Both drugs belong to the Cox-2 inhibitor class.

The legal issues were similar as well. Like Merck, Pfizer had argued that the plaintiffs missed the two-year statute of limitations. And as in the Merck case, the court determined that the lawsuit was filed within two years of the first public evidence of possible fraud. Pfizer's appeal had been on hold pending a decision in the Merck case.

The Pfizer plaintiffs allege that the company's Pharmacia unit withheld full data from a study showing that using Celebrex was no safer than less expensive drugs. 

- read the Wall Street Journal story (sub. req.)
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