Investors accuse Pfizer of trashing data on Celebrex, Bextra

Disgruntled Pfizer ($PFE) investors are accusing the company of a cover-up. In documents filed in a securities-fraud lawsuit, the investor group says Pfizer trashed some records and denied the existence of others--and it's calling for sanctions against company officials in response, Bloomberg reports.

But Pfizer has countered with its own allegations: That the plaintiffs nixed some records relevant to the case. And the company says it, too, is asking for sanctions--against the plaintiffs.

The allegations arose in a fight over data on the painkillers Celebrex and Bextra, which was withdrawn from the market in 2005 because of heart attack risks. The investors initially sued Pfizer over statements made about the "safety and marketability" of Celebrex and Bextra. They say Pfizer kept quiet about both drugs' safety risks. Now, they say the drug giant hid and destroyed records to keep them out of the plaintiffs' hands.

"Defendants destroyed documents in bad faith and compounded their initial misconduct by making false statements about the existence of centralized databases," attorney Jay Eisenhofer said in court documents (as quoted by Bloomberg).

Pfizer is asking the judge in the case to throw out the investors' claims. Company officials called the request for sanctions "baseless," the news service reports. In fact, the company is seeking sanctions against the investors for failing to "preserve electronic documents relevant to this litigation."

"Pfizer has complied with its document production obligations in this case," Spokesman Chris Loder told Bloomberg.

It's just the latest legal wrangle over Celebrex and Bextra. Back in 2009, the company agreed to pay $2.3 billion to resolve a long-running Justice Department investigation into its marketing of several drugs, including Bextra. And as Bloomberg points out, the company settled an investor lawsuit over Celebrex safety for $164 million.

- read the Bloomberg story