Pfizer Inc. was forced to remove its arthritis drug Bextra from the market. This led to a request by Louisiana attorneys for Bextra and Celebrex patients to a judicial panel in Washington, D.C. to move all Bextra and Celebrex lawsuits in the country to one federal court, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana, which is in New Orleans. They demanded that consolidation of these cases would make it easy to manage them and save time and money too.

Pfizer, the manufacturer of Bextra was forced to take off the drug from the market due to the fact that overall risk of the drug overweighs its benefit. FDA in a statement also expressed the same sentiment.

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, black, or tarry stools have also been reported.

Recall of Bextra had raised concerns regarding users of similar drugs. Vioxx, which is another drug manufactured similar to Bextra, was recalled from the market by Merck & Company. Study showed that it increases a patients’ risk of heart attack and stroke. Thus this drug was pulled from the market in September 2004. But Bextra was recalled from the market in 2005 due to its potential to cause a rare but serious skin reaction. Pfizer had also claimed to disclose this risk on the label of Bextra.

This recall has led to a number of lawsuits filed against Pfizer related to side effects of Bextra. Previously after recall of Vioxx, Pfizer faced same situation as many cases were filed against it. Then many of the Vioxx lawsuits, individual and class actions, were consolidated. They were also transferred to the federal court in New Orleans before Judge Eldon E. Fallon.

After recall of Bextra Louisiana attorneys demanded that the same process should be undertaken in case of Bextra. Louisiana State attorney, Richard J. Arsenault said in a statement that the same course of action was appropriate in the case of Bextra. He said “All of the cases involving Vioxx have been transferred to the federal court in New Orleans and it would be appropriate if the Bextra/Celebrex litigation were here also.”

Pfizer opposed this demand by claiming that Bextra did not have the same heart-related risks as Vioxx. But a study by Dr. Garret FitzGerald, a cardiologist and pharmacologist at the University of Pennsylvania, showed that Bextra did pose heart related risks. The study was based on 12 clinical trials and 5,930 participants. This study was presented at the American Heart Association’s annual conference in November 2004. It showed that patients having Bextra had four times higher risks of heart problems than patients not using this drug. This has made Pfizer’s claim weak.