Class Action Lawsuit Over Celebrex, Bextra Heart Problems Revived For Shareholders

An appeals court has determined that Pfizer must face a class action lawsuit brought by shareholders over claims that the pharmaceutical company provided false and misleading information about the potential side effects of Celebrex and Bextra. 

In a unanimous decision, yesterday the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the dismissal of a class action lawsuit brought against Pfizer. The shareholder claim was previously dismissed after U.S. District Judge Laura Taylor refused to allow an expert witness to testify.

The Celebrex and Bextra class action lawsuit was brought on behalf of investors who bought stock in Pfizer from October 31, 2000 to October 19, 2005, alleging that Pfizer knowingly misrepresented information about the cardiovascular risks associated with Celebrex and Bextra, which were two blockbuster drugs sold by the company at the time.

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Judge Taylor precluded former University of Chicago Law School Dean Daniel Fischel from testifying about potential damage to shareholders, determining that jurors would be unable to find Pfizer liable for statements made by the original Celebrex and Bextra manufacturer, G.D. Searle & Co., who allegedly hid the risk of heart problems linked to the two pain killers.

The appeals court overturned both those decisions, saying Fischel’s testimony could be beneficial to the plaintiffs in showing that Pfizer inflated its stock value by continuing to conceal Celebrex and Bextra heart risks when it acquired the drugs.

Celebrex and Bextra are pain medications that were sold by Pfizer to millions of Americans.  Also known as COX-2 enzyme inhibitors, the drugs reduce pain and inflammation in the back and neck and pain from arthritis.  However, they have also been linked to increased cardiovascular risk, including heart attacks and strokes.

In 2008, Pfizer paid nearly $1 billion to settle Celebrex and Bextra lawsuits brought by plaintiffs who said they were injured by the drugs’ side effects.

Pfizer issued a Bextra recall in April 2005, after it was linked to heart attacks, strokes, blood clots and other injuries such as the Stevens-Johnson Syndrome (SJS), which is a serious and potentially fatal skin reaction. Celebrex is still on the market.

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