A California jury has ordered drug maker Pfizer Inc. to pay $38 million to a Bay Area medical research non-profit for stealing trade secrets to develop a pain relief drug. The jury in Santa Clara County Superior Court reached the verdict in a 2004 lawsuit filed against Pfizer by the San Bruno-based non-profit Ischemia Research and Education Foundation. The lawsuit alleged that in 2002 Pfizer wanted to use the Foundation’s database for clinical trials on Bextra, one of the drugs used to treat acute pain chiefly caused by arthritis. As we have reported in numerous issues, Bextra was eventually taken off the market because it posed a heart risk.
After the New York-based drug maker and the Foundation could not agree on terms for use of the database, the lawsuit alleged that Pfizer arranged a side deal with a lead statistician at the Foundation. This man provided the data without approval, according to the suit. The lawsuit also contended that Pfizer and the employee destroyed evidence when confronted about the data theft. The jury found that Pfizer and the statistician had acted with malice, which means the judge can now award punitive damages that by law could reach $114 million.
As you know, Bextra was removed from the market in 2005 due to concerns that it increased the risk of heart attack and stroke. Pfizer settled class actions over Bextra and a related drug, Celebrex, for $894 million in October. In this case, Pfizer could also face punitive damages that could increase the verdict to more than $120 million. Post-trial motions were heard on January 16th by the trial judge. Pfizer said it plans to appeal.
Source: Associated Press
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