Pfizer wins day in court over Celebrex

Drug giant Pfizer has won a court ruling in the United States which could limit the lawsuits the company might possibly face over claims that its painkiller Celebrex caused heart attacks and strokes.

On Monday this week Judge Charles Breyer of U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California ruled that, according to court documents, the plaintiffs had not presented scientifically reliable evidence that Celebrex causes heart attacks or strokes when taken at a strength of 200 milligrams.

According to Pfizer most Celebrex patients are prescribed the 200 milligram dosage, and the ruling could reduce the amount of Celebrex lawsuits Pfizer will face.

More than 3,000 lawsuits currently being filed by, or on behalf of patients accuse Pfizer's Celebrex painkiller of causing their heart attacks, and the company is facing billions of dollars in damages.

Pfizer General Counsel Allen Waxman says the company is pleased with the decision of the federal court, which recognizes the lack of any credible evidence linking Celebrex, at its most common dosage form, with heart attacks or strokes.

Waxman says the ruling will greatly limit the scope of the litigation but the company intends to continue to vigorously defend the charges.

The lawyer for the plaintiffs Paul Pennock of Weitz & Luxenberg, says 500 to 1,000 of the plaintiffs were 200 milligram cases, but other, higher-dose cases were moving forward; he says the 200 milligram cases were never really a major component of the litigation.

Celebrex belongs to a class of painkillers called Cox-2 inhibitors which also includes two drugs no longer on the market, Merck's Vioxx and another Pfizer drug Bextra.

Earlier this month Merck agreed to pay $4.85 billion to settle most of the claims against the company that Vioxx caused heart attacks and strokes in thousands of users.

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