Pfizer Inc. shouldn’t be allowed to escape a proposed product liability class action accusing it of selling Chantix, a medication designed to help people stop smoking, which was allegedly tainted with a carcinogen.
The pharmaceutical giant’s “lengthy” motion to dismiss is a “self-serving” “puff-piece” that raises legal arguments previously rejected by a federal court in unrelated multidistrict litigation over similar carcinogens found in blood pressure medication, said Juan Abreu, the lead plaintiff in the Chantix lawsuit.
Abreu’s lawsuit, filed in October 2021, claims that Pfizer found out that Chantix was “contaminated” with the carcinogen nitrosamine in October 2020 through a notice from a distributor, Apotex Inc. The distributor, which is not a defendant in the suit, learned this from the Canadian health department, Health Canada. But Pfizer delayed a full voluntary recall of the drug until September 2021.
Pfizer, therefore, increased the likelihood that Abreu and others would develop cancer due to their exposure to nitrosamine. The company also faces similar claims in a proposed class action filed in Pennsylvania in October.
Abreu, however, argues that the carcinogenic nature of “nitrosamines were commonly known” in the industry since 2018. He said that his claim that Apotex gave Pfizer notice of nitrosamine in Chantix last year should be enough to keep those claims alive at this stage.
His fraud claims rely on a similar set of facts to the In re: Valsartan MDL. In January, a New Jersey federal court refused to dismiss fraud claims in that litigation, finding that plaintiffs adequately pleaded that drugmakers Teva Pharmaceuticals USA Inc. and Mylan Pharmaceuticals Inc. knew that their drug Valsartan was tainted with carcinogens.
Pfizer’s motion argues that the studies regarding nitrosamine suggest that there is a 1 in 100,000 chance a person will develop cancer if they consume the chemical every day for 70 years, and Chantix is only prescribed for a few weeks at a time.