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British Columbia class action suits target Celebrex and Zyprexa

(NORTH VANCOUVER, B.C., 31 January, 2005) - Two more prescription drugs have become the subject of British Columbia class action law suits, with victims claiming that the pharmaceutical companies involved “knew or ought to have known” that these products, proposed to treat certain conditions, had disastrous side effects.

The new suits concern:

  • CELEBREX, a non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory drug - specifically a “COX-2 inhibitor” - which is prescribed to relieve pain and swelling. Since its 1999 introduction in Canada, it has typically been used to treat arthritis, acute pain, acute migraine headaches and menstrual pain and discomfort. Celebrex is manufactured by Pfizer Inc.

  • ZYPREXA, manufactured by Eli Lilly and Company, and distributed in Canada since 1996, is among a group of drugs called the “atypical antipsychotic drugs” prescribed for the treatment of certain disorders, including schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. It blocks the action of serotonin and dopamine, producing a tranquilizing and antipsychotic effect.

Both suits were filed last week in the Supreme Court of British Columbia by the law firm of Poyner Baxter of North Vancouver, which works predominantly in the field of class action suits.

These actions follow in the wake of last fall’s Vioxx controversy (also the subject of a Poyner Baxter action on behalf of British Columbia victims). Merck and Company recalled Vioxx because of the significantly increased risk to patients of cardiovascular events, including strokes and heart attacks. This worldwide attention cast the spotlight on Pfizer’s Celebrex, a drug prescribed for the same conditions for which Vioxx had been used.

Subsequently, similar alarming information has come forward from both scientists and patients concerning Celebrex. The Poyner Baxter statement of claim says, in part:

Celebrex has been associated with an increased risk of serious adverse cardiovascular complications, including but not limited to, heart attack, stroke, angina pectoris, atrial fibrillation, bradycardia, hematoma, irregular heartbeat, palpitation, premature ventricular contraction, tachycardia, venous insufficiency, cerebrovascular accident, congestive heart failure, deep venous thrombosis, pulmonary embolism, transient ischemic attack, unstable angina, and occlusion.

Unlike Vioxx, which was recalled, Celebrex continues to be sold, although, in December, 2004, Health Canada revoked approval for the drug for certain conditions and advised patients who were on long term 400 mg. daily doses to look for alternate medications.

The Poyner Baxter action claims that Pfizer was aware of these concerns as early as 2000 but continued to vigorously promote the drug, emphasizing its positive attributes to both physicians and patients, and either failing to disclose or minimizing any negative side effects. The patient who is named in this class action proceeding was prescribed Celebrex to treat muscle cramps in his calves and feet during 2003. Less than a year later, the law suit claims, he suffered the amputation of a toe, gangrene of the lower leg and subsequent surgery to repair a blood vessel.

The Zyprexa action filed last week in British Columbia alleges a direct link between Zyprexa and diabetes. The Plaintiff, a resident of a home for mentally disabled people, alleges that his use of Zyprexa resulted in diabetes. Options available to this patient for the treatment of the original mental condition are now egregiously limited because of the Zyprexa-induced diabetes.

There were 6 million prescriptions for Zyprexa in Canada over the 12 months ending October 2003. Total sales in Canada were valued at $223 million in 2002 and over $4 billion worldwide in 2003. Zyprexa has been associated with an increased risk of developing diabetes, hyperglycemia, pancreatitis, ketoacidosis and other injuries. In an October 16, 2003 press release, Eli Lilly disclosed a Health Canada order directing it to include updated information on hyperglycemia and diabetes on the labels of their antipsychotics.

This statement of claim reads, in part

“Eli Lilly purposefully minimized and understated health hazards and risks associated with Zyprexa. Eli Lilly, through literature and oral statements, deceived potential users of Zyprexa and their physicians by relaying positive information, including testimonials from satisfied users and by manipulating statistics to suggest widespread acceptability, while downplaying the known adverse and serious health effects of the drug. Eli Lilly falsely and fraudulently withheld relevant information from potential users of Zyprexa. “

“Once again we have more evidence of what is becoming epidemic, and that is the pharmaceutical industry’s irresponsible promotional zeal, unashamedly downplaying or ignoring evidence that might be injurious to their marketing goals,” said lawyer Jim Poyner. “We hope that all British Columbians who feel they have suffered as a consequence of taking either Celebrex or Zyprexa will visit our web site and make sure that they complete our web form.”

Under B.C.’s “Class Proceedings Act,” a suit is brought in the name of one individual as “representative of a class.” Each of these actions cites the case of one person, but if certified by the Supreme Court, they will represent and potentially benefit everyone in the province who has suffered the negative consequences of using either Celebrex or Zyprexa.

The complete text of the Statements of Claim can be found at

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Poyner Baxter, Suite 408 - 145 Chadwick Court
North Vancouver, B.C. V7M 3K1  Telephone: 604.988 6321 Fax: 604.988 3632
e-mail:   web site:

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