Erik Gordon, head of biomedical industry programs at Stevens Institute of Technology (Hoboken, NJ) compared Pfizer’s current crush of lawsuits to “having a thousand fleas attack a dog at the same time.” Last week, Pfizer finally decided it was time to lighten the load and the company agreed to settle a huge majority of its lawsuits over its now-withdrawn pain reliever “Bextra” and its still-marketed drug “Celebrex.”
Of the total $894 million settlement, $745 million will go to settle the nearly 7000 personal injury claims stating the anti-inflammatory drugs led to elevated risks of heart attacks and strokes. The rest will go toward consumer fraud cases and settlements with attorneys general in 33 states and the District of Columbia.
Plaintiff attorney Perry Weitz said it gives Pfizer “closure and the claimants their money sooner, rather than later, or never at all.” Two independent rulings, one by a New York state judge overseeing state-level personal injury cases and another by a federal judge in San Francisco who coordinated pretrial steps in the federal lawsuits, found that the plaintiffs had failed to provide “significantly reliable” scientific evidence to strengthen their case.
So in the end, it seems like both sides had just grown tired. Did the industry or consumers gain anything for the betterment of public health? And it seems awkward to me that the same biomedical science on which this industry so heavily relies to prove safety and efficacy would in the end be unable to legitimately free it from its “parasitic infestations.”