A federal judge in Birmingham is overseeing about 1,200 lawsuits involving pharmaceutical giant Pfizer Inc. and its stop-smoking drug Chantix, many of them with smokers and their families claiming the drug left them with a variety of psychological problems, including anxiety, aggressiveness and suicidal thoughts.
In one of the lawsuits, Billy Bedsole of Demopolis, claimed he suffered memory loss, depression, mood swings and anxiety after he started taking Chantix.
“A lot of folks had a terrible reaction to the drug,” said the lead plaintiffs’ attorney, Ernest Cory of Birmingham.
The Chantix lawsuits in federal court in Birmingham were first reported by The Birmingham News.
A spokeswoman for Pfizer, Victoria Davis, said the company acted “responsibly and appropriately” in the development of the stop-smoking drug.
“There is no reliable scientific evidence that Chantix causes the neuropsychiatric events alleged in these lawsuits. Chantix is an effective treatment option for many smokers who want to quit, and we intend to defend this important medication,” Davis said.
The U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation in late 2009 assigned hundreds of Chantix cases filed around the country to U.S. District Judge Inge Johnson, saying she had the time and experience to handle them.
Cory said there are still about 1,000 cases to be filed.
He said Johnson could choose one of the cases to be tried in Birmingham or in another jurisdiction.
Cory said it’s a complicated case and he doubts there will be a trial before 2012. He said Pfizer has more the 5 million documents on the testing and marketing of the drug that have to be reviewed. He said attorneys will have to take depositions from numerous Pfizer employees, mostly at the company’s headquarters in New York City.
The lawsuits are being handled much like the thousands of suits filed by women who claimed they were made ill because of silicone gel breast implants. The lawsuits from across the country were also assigned to the federal district court in Birmingham.