Pfizer settles after jury issues $43 million verdict in Rezulin diabetes drug case

Saturday, December 22nd 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas (AP) _ A woman who said her liver was destroyed by Pfizer Inc.'s recalled diabetes drug, Rezulin, still faces the prospect of a transplant. But her attorneys say a settlement reached with the drug giant hours after it lost a huge jury verdict will bring her justice.

The amount of the settlement was not disclosed, but Pfizer general counsel Paul Miller said it was ``substantially lower'' than the $43 million in compensatory damages awarded by the state court jury. The company did not admit liability.

Margarita Sanchez' case was the second to go to trial involving Rezulin, which has been linked to 63 deaths from liver failure. On Monday, a Houston jury found the company not liable for a 58-year-old woman's death.

The settlement, which would erase the compensatory damages verdict, was announced as the jury considered whether to add punitive damages against Pfizer's Warner-Lambert unit.

``The very tough truth is that taking Rezulin was a death sentence for Margie Sanchez,'' said Mikal Watts, lead trial attorney for 63-year-old Sanchez and her family. ``Now she and her family face the frightening prospects of a liver transplant and a long and very tough battle as a result of the damage this drug caused her.''

During the two-week trial, Sanchez's lawyers said Warner-Lambert lied to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration about Rezulin's dangers.

FDA research has linked the drug to 63 deaths from liver failure. According to company documents, Pfizer faces more than 4,200 claims and lawsuits over Rezulin.

Pfizer, which acquired Warner-Lambert last year, had argued Sanchez's liver condition was caused by hepatitis. Company lawyers said they would have appealed if the settlement hadn't been reached.

Miller said the judge improperly limited Pfizer's ability to question witnesses and allowed jurors to hear prejudicial and hearsay evidence.

``In reaching settlement, the plaintiffs recognized that a second and fair trial was likely to lead to a very different outcome,'' he said.

The FDA approved Rezulin in 1997 to treat type II diabetes. The drug was taken by nearly 2 million people before it was removed from the market last year.