Four former executives at Pfizer Inc., the world's largest drug company. -- Henry McKinnell, John LaMattina, Karen Katen, Joseph Feczko -- as well as Gail Cawkwell, Pfizer's current Vice President of Medical Affairs, will all face trial for allegedly concealing the unfavorable results of drug trials involving Celebrex and Bextra. Courthouse News Service (CNS) reports that U.S. District Judge Laura Taylor Swain has denied requests made by defendants to dismiss the case, which means all five individuals will be held to account for their actions.
The securities class-action lawsuit, which was filed by the Teachers Retirement System of Louisiana (TRSL) on behalf of Pfizer stockholders, alleges that the five defendants violated federal securities laws by concealing the results of studies involving Celebrex, a COX-2 inhibiting anti-inflammatory drug, and Bextra, a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) that was pulled from the market in 2005.
According to the suit, the five defendants made misleading statements in their public filings about the drug trials, and also omitted important information that exposed both Celebrex and Bextra as being dangerous. And despite numerous attempts by Pfizer and the defendants to have the case dismissed or reconsidered, the case will now proceed as intended following Judge Swain's ruling that the plaintiffs provide sufficient evidence to show that Celebrex and Bextra are "linked to adverse cardiovascular events to a statistically significant degree, and that these results were known to Defendants."
Because of its class-action status, the lawsuit will also potentially address a number of other lawsuits against Pfizer as well, since it has now been revealed that Celebrex, which is still on the market, has been known to cause heart problems since at least as early as 2004. If the plaintiffs are successful in winning their case, Pfizer shareholders who purchased stock between October 31, 2000, and October 19, 2005, will be covered.
"Over the past seven years, this court has become familiar with both the parties to and the subject matter of this action, and so believes that concentrating this litigation in this forum would promote judicial economy," wrote Judge Swain in her ruling.
Just prior to the ruling, Pfizer actually ended a post-approval safety study of Celebrex due to difficulty finding patients willing to enroll in it. Though the company was initially required by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to conduct such a study, the regulatory agency ended up deciding to simply let Pfizer off the hook rather than hold it accountable to these requirements (http://www.cbsnews.com).