Pfizer Agrees To Settle Lawsuits Over Zantac Cancer Risks

Pfizer Inc. has reached a settlement in a massive lawsuit involving over 10,000 plaintiffs who accused the company of downplaying the cancer risks associated with its heartburn drug, Zantac, as reported by Bloomberg on Wednesday, marking a significant turning point in the case.

Insiders familiar with the settlement negotiations have confirmed that the financial details of the agreements will remain under wraps, at least for now.

While the agreements provide some closure, they only partially address Pfizer’s exposure to Zantac lawsuits, which continue to pose a legal risk for the company.

For over three decades, Zantac has been a household name in the US, trusted by millions for its antacid properties, with various pharmaceutical companies owning the brand throughout its long history.

Zantac’s origins date back to the 1980s, when GlaxoSmithKline and Warner-Lambert first developed the drug. Initially introduced as a prescription medication in 1983, it later transitioned to an over-the-counter heartburn treatment in 1996, making it more accessible to consumers.

A pharmaceutical company, Sanofi, acquired the drug in 2017 before recalling it in 2019, about a month after an independent laboratory released tests showing the likely carcinogen NDMA in the drug and its generics.

The lab’s research indicated the drug’s active ingredient, ranitidine, formed NDMA over time or at higher temperatures.

After conducting exhaustive tests and verifications, the FDA pulled the plug on Zantac in 2020, ordering a complete market recall of all its variants.

Sanofi has brought back Zantac, but with a new formula that trades ranitidine for famotidine, the active ingredient in Pepcid, a heartburn drug from a rival manufacturer.

In a statement, Pfizer stated that it “has explored and will continue to explore opportunistic settlements of certain cases if appropriate, and has settled certain cases.

“The company has not sold a Zantac product in more than 15 years and did so only for a limited period of time.”

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A Delaware court filing has exposed a settlement between Pfizer and plaintiffs, amidst a vast legal landscape of over 70,000 Zantac lawsuits. The cases hang in the balance as a judge assesses the scientific evidence to determine if they will proceed to trial.

Investors are likely to breathe a sigh of relief as a new deal is reached, echoing similar agreements by GSK Plc and Sanofi, two other major players in the Zantac market, Bloomberg reveals.

Fears about Zantac-related lawsuits led to a staggering $45 billion loss in market value for drug manufacturers in the summer of 2022. However, with the announcement of recent settlements, shares have not only recovered but also surged, with Pfizer’s stock rising 1.5% to $28.19 by mid-morning in New York.

According to Bloomberg News, Sanofi has agreed to a substantial payout of over $100 million to resolve approximately 4,000 Zantac cases, signaling a significant step towards closure for the affected parties.

GSK is facing its first US jury trial over claims it was aware of Zantac’s risks, with the plaintiff’s lawyer accusing the company of putting profits over people. The lawyer argued that this greed led to their client’s colorectal cancer diagnosis, while GSK’s defense team maintains that no scientific evidence links Zantac to the disease.

A Chicago judge has given the green light for the Zantac trial to proceed, according to an April 29 notice filed by plaintiffs’ lawyers. The judge’s review of the underlying science paved the way for the trial, which will focus on GSK and Boehringer Ingelheim GmbH, as Pfizer has already reached a settlement.

Africa Today News, New York 

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