Pfizer's bid to forestall Chantix trial fails

Pfizer ($PFE) has brand-new Chantix data. Pfizer wants to delay a liability lawsuit because of that data. But a U.S. judge says that's a non-starter--and suggested that Pfizer could have chosen to release the study at a more opportune time.

The lawsuit turns on the death of Mark Whitely, whose wife alleges that his use of Chantix caused him to commit suicide. Whitely also makes the failure-to-warn accusations typical to drug-liability suits, claiming that Pfizer wasn't stringent enough about highlighting the drug's risks.

As Dow Jones reports, Pfizer's new study found that Chantix beat placebo at helping patients quit smoking. The difference in this trial was that the patients studied were either depressed, or had a history of depression. The study also attempted to measure patients' psychiatric health, and found no differences between the Chantix arm and the placebo arm.

Given that psychiatric health is at issue in this case--and in the 2,600 other lawsuits linking Chantix with suicide or other mental health problems--Pfizer asked Judge Inge Prytz Johnson to put off the trial till Jan. 22. "The court should want a full and complete record before it," Pfizer's general counsel said.

Johnson nipped that idea in the bud, Dow Jones says. Pfizer sponsored the study and controlled its debut, she wrote in denying Pfizer's motion. "Defendant's concern about litigation getting ahead of science does not create any cause for a sudden halt to litigation which has been pending since 2009, based on a study for which defendant controlled when the results were made public," the ruling noted.

- get the Dow Jones piece