Pfizer, Merck, J&J all close books on some lawsuits

It has been a week of conciliation among some of the Big Pharma players, with Pfizer settling more Chantix litigation, Merck closing out some Vioxx lawsuits and Johnson & Johnson coming to terms with shareholders angered over its handling of Tylenol recalls.

Drugmakers often announce settlements at earnings time as they clean up lingering legal entanglements and move toward what they hope will be better times. Today Pfizer ($PFE) confirmed it had reached final terms on 660 lawsuits tied to its smoking cessation drug Chantix that were pending in Alabama, as All Alabama reported. Terms of that litigation were not disclosed, but in March, the company said it was taking a $273 million charge to cover the costs of settling about 2,000 of the 2,700 pending lawsuits and would set aside another $15 million toward wrapping up the rest of the claims. The company said today's settlement closes that chapter on the drug.

"The resolution of these cases reflects a desire by the company to focus on the needs of patients and prescribers, and return the conversation to how Chantix can help smokers quit," the company said in a statement.

Merck ($MRK) Thursday said it would pay $23 million to resolve some outstanding litigation tied to its withdrawn pain drug Vioxx. This time it was settling suits that said it had not been candid to consumers about the heart risks of the drug. That is a tiny sum compared to what it has already shelled out to disgorge litigation on the now withdrawn drug. As Bloomberg reports, the company in 2007 paid $4.85 billion to settle a boatload of lawsuits tied to the heart risks of the drug. Last November, it agreed to pay $220 million to finalize some more. It also paid nearly $1 billion in 2011 to settle a federal probe into its marketing of Vioxx.

Earlier in the week, Johnson & Johnson ($JNJ) said it would pay $22.9 million to set aside a shareholder lawsuit that said J&J execs were responsible for quality issues at an OTC plant, and then it bungled the handling of recalls so badly that Congress was prompted to investigate, consumers fled its brands and the value of shares fell.

- here's the Bloomberg story
- read more from All Alabama

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