Pfizer Inc., the pharmaceutical giant settled the bulk of the lawsuits against it related to its pain relieving arthritis drug Bextra for $894 million. Previously Merck & Co., settled Vioxx suits for five times this amount. Pfizer was facing numerous lawsuits related to side effects of Bextra.

Bextra is the brand name for valdecoxib. It is used for treating pain, swelling, fever and tenderness, which is caused by arthritis. It acts by affecting production of prostaglandins. Prostaglandins are chemicals, which produce pain and swelling of joints in arthritis. Thus pain and swelling of joints is reduced. It is also prescribed for menstrual cramps.

The most common side effects of valdecoxib are stomach pain, diarrhea, headache, nausea, weight gain and sleep disturbances. But it can cause severe side effects such as heart failure, kidney failure, hypertension or chest pain too in some cases. It can result in allergic reactions such as rash, swelling itching or yellowing of skin. In some cases stomach and intestinal ulcers, bleeding, blurred vision, anxiety, photosensitivity, fatigue or lethargy, bloody stools have also been reported. Other serious side effect related to Bextra is heart related problems. It can lead to chest pain, rapid heart rate and even heart attack.

Bextra was reevaluated by FDA after Merck & Co. voluntarily withdrew its COX-2 drug Vioxx in September 2004. It was a result of a clinical study showing its relation to heart attack. The study on Bextra too revealed that risk factors of Bextra were overweighing than benefits of this drug. FDA requested Pfizer to recall Bextra from the market. Pfizer voluntarily withdrew Bextra on April 7, 2005.

Pfizer agreed to pay this amount to end up lawsuits over its popular drugs Bextra and Celebrex. Celebrex was in the circulation at the time of agreement, but Bextra had been recalled from the market. Bextra, Celebrex and Vioxx are all in the same class of anti-inflammatory drugs. All these drugs had shown increased risk of heart attack and strokes. In some cases they have even resulted into death.

This settlement covered around 92 percent of personal injury lawsuits filed by numerous people against Bextra and Celebrex. These lawsuits blamed these drugs to cause heart attacks, strokes or other harm. Around 7,000 personal injury cases were settled through this agreement. Plaintiffs in these cases were mainly patients who took Bextra. These cases also had around 2,000 claimants; about 10 percent of them were relatives of people who died.

The attorney involved with these lawsuits welcomed the settlement as it was intended to end up legal hassles for both Pfizer and plaintiffs. The agreement was reached in 2008 and money was expected to release by the end of the same year. Pfizer was also trying to include additional claimants and other personal injury suits, which were remaining with court motions or at trial, in the settlement.

Plaintiffs were to move to the court in case they did not get their claim money on time.