Pfizer CEO Ian Read ordered to testify in Chantix case

Another Big Pharma CEO faces the prospect of appearing before a jury to testify in defense of a drug that has been called dangerous.

Pfizer CEO Ian Read and two other Pfizer ($PFE) executives have been ordered to appear in the case of Billy Bedsole, a man who claims he was institutionalized for psychiatric reasons after taking Pfizer smoking cessation drug Chantix, Bloomberg reports. The trial is set for Jan. 22 in a court in Florence, AL.

"I think the jury will look forward to having Mr. Read testify in Alabama and he should look forward to defending Chantix," Ernest Cory, Bedsole's attorney, told Bloomberg.

Pfizer had already been fighting a subpoena in a similar case. A number of cases claim Chantix causes depression so severe that some users killed themselves and that the company did not warn against the problem. Pfizer has denied the drug was the cause and points out that there were warnings that it could cause depression beginning in 2006. The company last month settled with the widow of one of the people who committed suicide after taking Chantix, Bloomberg says.

Last month, New York-based Pfizer, the world's biggest drugmaker, reached a confidential settlement with the widow of a Minnesota man who killed himself after taking Chantix. The case on behalf of the family of Mark Alan Whitely had been slated to begin Oct. 22 in Florence.

Johnson & Johnson CEO Alex Gorsky also faced the prospect of testifying before a jury. In J&J's ($JNJ) case, the plaintiffs' lawyers argued that, as chief of the company's Janssen unit at the time when Risperdal was heavily marketed, Gorsky was close to the action--and should be compelled to take the stand. The judge in that case didn't buy the argument; soon after, J&J settled, mooting any potential appeal.

- here's the Bloomberg story

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