December 14, 2011 - A conference regarding the status of the federal Chantix litigation that was originally set to take place this Friday has been pushed back to January 20 after legal teams told the Court that discovery proceedings were going smoothly, and that there was no need to meet to discuss the issues at this early juncture.
To date, hundreds of legal claims involving Chantix side effects have been filed in courts throughout the country. These complaints have been consolidated as part of a multidistrict litigation (MDL), which is currently centralized before U.S. District Judge Inge Johnson in the Northern District of Alabama.
All of the complaints involve allegations that Pfizer’s blockbuster smoking cessation drug may increase the risk of serious injury or death due to suicidal thoughts and wildly aggressive behavior that has been reported in a number of former Chantix users.
A select number of the cases have been designated as the Chantix bellwether lawsuits, and are currently being prepared for early trial dates. Bellwether trials are intended to help gauge the validity of the cases in the MDL, and determine how juries are likely to respond to the evidence presented.
The legal teams involved in the Chantix litigation have stated that they continue to make progress in the discovery process. Plaintiff’s depositions for witnesses are drawing to a close, and the parties have taken a satisfactory number of depositions in the 28 cases being prepared for the Chantix bellwether trials. At this time, the law firms involved have indicated that they do not have any matters to discuss with the Court, and that this week’s conference is not necessary.
Chantix lawyers around the country are continuing to file complaints on behalf of former users who allegedly suffered injuries that may have been caused by the psychological side effects of the drug. In December alone, at least 25 new Chantix lawsuits have been filed in the Northern District of Alabama, with scores more expected in the near future.
First approved by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) in 2006, Chantix (varenicline) is prescribed to help problem smokers quit their habit after other attempts have failed. Chantix is designed to work by reducing the positive feelings that come from smoking, blocking the receptors in the brain that are stimulated by nicotine. Unfortunately, the drug’s side effects have caused a number of reports of bizarre violent behavior and thoughts of self-harm and suicide.
In June 2009, the FDA required Pfizer to add a so-called ‘black box’ warning – the strictest such warning allowed by law – to Chantix labels including information about the potential risk of changes in behavior, depression, and suicidal thoughts.
Making matters worse, the administration also recently issued a press release warning the public that Chantix may increase the risk of certain cardiovascular events – including the risk of heart attack – among patients with a history of cardiovascular disease. As a result, Pfizer is now facing a growing number of potential Chantix heart attack legal claims.