PHARMACY

Pfizer initiates settlements of its painkiller cases

BY Drew Buono

NEW YORK Pfizer has begun settling cases over its Celebrex and Bextra painkillers, according to Bloomberg.

More than 3,000 patients have claimed that the drugs caused heart attacks and strokes. Celebrex, in the same class of medicines as Merck’s recalled Vioxx, is Pfizer’s third-best-selling drug. The product, which is still on the market, generated $2.3 billion in sales in 2007, a 12 percent increase from the previous year.

The Wall Street Journal reported on Friday that Pfizer had reached settlements with three law firms representing more than 200 of the thousands who sued over the drugs. Firms have been offered $40,000 to $50,000 per client to resolve Bextra cases and as much as $200,000 a client for Celebrex, The Journal reported, citing an unidentified lawyer.

Pfizer withdrew Bextra in April 2005 after it was tied to a potentially fatal skin condition. The first Bextra trial, due to begin today in federal court in San Francisco, was postponed until May 29, according to court records.

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Hormone deemed effective in male birth-control pill

BY Drew Buono

TORRANCE, Calif. According to published reports, one of the two government-funded research centers in the U.S. for male contraceptives has discovered hormone pills that block sperm production in men and has found them to be safe and reversible.

The hormone combination that proved most successful halts testosterone production in the testicles, but fakes the body into believing that testosterone levels are the same, according to the study. The progestin, typically a female hormone, speeds the process and improves the effectiveness of the drug, research shows. The hormones can be taken in a pill or injection form.

As with female birth control, the male contraceptives don’t prevent sexually transmitted disease. But they have proven as effective as female pills in preventing pregnancy, according to the study.

The next goal is to find pharmaceutical companies that want to conduct final development of the drug, but so far companies have been unwillingly to take part because of the regulatory requirement involved in manufacturing a contraceptive.

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Federal appeals court lets Washington state Plan B ruling stand

BY Drew Buono

LOS ANGELES A federal appeals court on Thursday left in place a lower court’s ruling that allowed Washington state pharmacists to refuse to sell Duramed’s emergency contraceptive pill Plan B on religious grounds, according to Reuters.

A federal judge in Seattle suspended state rules that required pharmacies to dispense the drug and other emergency contraceptives that prevent fertilized eggs from implanting, which some people believe is the same as abortion.

U.S. District Judge Ronald Leighton found that the state rules force pharmacists into an unconstitutional choice between their religious beliefs and their work.

State officials and several women had asked the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to suspend the judge’s preliminary injunction, which bars them from enforcing the law, while they appeal his ruling.

In a split decision, the appeals court denied that request, finding that the state and the women did not show that they would suffer irreparable harm if the injunction stayed in place pending the appeal.

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