Chantix Litigation Shows No Sign of Stopping

Sasha Colter | March 29th, 2011

Chantix litigation is ongoing. However, plaintiffs  involved in the hotly contested dispute against Pfizer hope that several of the lawsuits will result in pretrial, Chantix lawsuit settlements.

Chantix is the trade name for Varenicline in the U.S., a smoking cessation drug predicted to be a blockbuster for Pfizer with billions of dollars in sales. It was approved in May of 2006 and enjoyed early success according to the high expectations. But shortly after its release, alarming reports of psychological Chantix side effects became widespread enough to prompt a rash of lawsuits and even affect the company’s projections.

Chantix side effects listed in FDA blackbox warning

After receiving reports from hundreds of individuals who experienced such adverse events- including multiple suicides- the FDA stepped in to require additional warnings for the drug. However by that time, Chantix had been sold to over 4 million patients in the U.S. alone.

Chantix currently carries the most serious warning attached to prescription drugs. The updated warning label states: “patients who are attempting to quit smoking with Chantix should be observed for serious neuropsychiatric symptoms, including changes in behavior, agitation, depressed mood, suicidal ideation and suicidal behavior.”

Chantix lawsuit case examples

One of the first Chantix suicide lawsuits was filed in July of 2008. Carol A. Jensen claimed that her husband committed suicide only a few months after starting Chantix treatment. He had no history of mental illness. Jensen went before a Nebraska federal judge in July of 2009 after Pfizer filed a motion to dismiss the Chantix suicide case. The judge denied the motion, holding that the plaintiff can sue on behalf her deceased husband.

In 2010 a former employee of Chantix, Randall Sloan, filed a lawsuit against the company after his negative experience with the drug. He was hospitalized after experiencing a number of the side effects now recognized as common for the smoking cessation drug. Sloan’s Chantix lawyer raised depression, anxiety, and aggressive behavior among other symptoms described in his complaint.

Multidistrict litigation approval may force earlier Chantix lawsuit settlements

More than 1,200 Chantix lawsuits have been filed already, and that number continues to grow.Due to the high number and rapid rate at which Chantix lawsuits were filed, the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation granted approval for consolidation in multidistrict litigation (MDL) in February of 2011.

Multidistrict litigation offers a streamlined process for a high volume of lawsuits containing common questions of fact. Many hope that the accelerated discovery schedule of MDL will encourage parties to reach quicker Chantix lawsuit settlements, thereby eliminating the need for any trial at all. However, if parties fail to reach a resolution during the pretrial process, the lawsuits will be returned to their court of original jurisdiction for trial.

Common allegations in Chantix litigation

Plaintiffs accuse Pfizer of:

  • Misrepresenting Chantix health risks (intentional, reckless and negligent misrepresentation)
  • Endangering the lives of users
  • Failing to appropriately conduct pre-sales research and clinical trials
  • Failing to warn doctors and patients of the potential psychological side effects

Chantix lawsuits that end up at trial will most likely see the courtroom in 2012. As of January 2011, Pfizer was not backing down from claims that they had appropriately handled both the pre-release research, marketing processes and response to adverse events. But experts suggest that Chantix plaintiffs are getting closer to Chantix lawsuit settlements as pretrial matters proceed. For many cases, swift Chantix settlements may be in the best interest of both parties. An experienced Chantix lawyer can help identify the best course of action based on an individual’s unique experienced with the medication.