Pfizer reaches deal with some Celebrex users: report

A view of the Belgian headquarters of U.S. pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, in Brussels January 23, 2007. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Pfizer Inc has reached tentative deals with some patients who claim to have suffered heart attacks and strokes from taking the company’s Celebrex and Bextra pain medicines, the Wall Street Journal said on Friday, citing plaintiff attorneys.

The attorneys are from several law firms that represent more than 200 plaintiffs from among several thousand who have sued the U.S. drugmaker, according to the report, which said Pfizer was still in discussions with law firms representing other plaintiffs.

A Pfizer spokesman said the company does not comment on pending litigation.

A lawyer at one law firm said he had been offered about $200,000 per client, on average, to settle his Bextra cases and an average of $40,000 to $50,000 per client to resolve Celebrex lawsuits, according to the newspaper report.

Pfizer lawyers have indicated the company was willing to pay as much as $500 million overall to resolve the litigation, the report said, quoting two attorneys.

Pfizer in April 2005 withdrew Bextra, its newer pain medicine that is in the same COX-2 inhibitor class as Celebrex, after the $1.3 billion-a-year drug was linked to a rare but dangerous skin disorder.

However, it kept Celebrex on the market after advisers to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration determined the drug’s benefits outweighed its risks.

Concerns about the safety of Celebrex and Bextra first arose after Merck & Co withdrew Vioxx, a similar treatment, in September 2004 due to heart attack risk seen in a lengthy study.

In one study, Celebrex itself was linked to a significantly higher incidence of death, heart attack and stroke. That study was designed to see if Celebrex could prevent colon polyps.

Reporting by Ransdell Pierson, editing by Gerald E. McCormick, Toni Reinhold