Pfizer keeps CEO off the stand with another Chantix settlement

Pfizer CEO Ian Read--courtesy of Pfizer

If you were waiting to see Pfizer CEO Ian Read testify in a Chantix trial, then you'll have to wait some more. One week before his bellwether case hit court, the drugmaker ($PFE) has made a deal with plaintiff Billy G. Bedsole Jr., who alleged that the stop-smoking drug triggered his suicidal thoughts and other psychiatric problems.

Bedsole's lawsuit was one of those selected as test cases in the ongoing Chantix litigation, which involves more than 2,600 lawsuits consolidated in U.S. District Judge Inge P. Johnson's Alabama court. In November, Johnson ordered Read to take the stand in her court, to field questions about Chantix's safety.

Obviously, that won't happen now. Pfizer Spokesman Chris Loder confirmed the settlement, saying that the parties had reached a confidential agreement. It's the second bellwether case to be wrapped up before trial; the first was settled in October. Bedsole's suit had been scheduled for trial beginning Jan. 23.

Chantix has been linked with an increased risk of psychiatric problems, including suicidal thoughts. The FDA required a "black box" warning to flag Chantix's risk of psychiatric side effects. But the agency has also concluded that the drug doesn't increase the risk of psychiatric hospitalization. Now, however, there are worries about heart attack risks--but as the FDA pointed out in a recent statement, smoking's risks to the heart are substantial.

Pfizer continues to assert Chantix's safety when used by the right patients. "We believe that Chantix is an important treatment option for smokers who want to quit, and the company stands by the medicine and its continued use in appropriate patients," Loder told

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