By Nate Raymond and Ransdell Pierson
(Reuters) - Pfizer Inc has agreed to pay $164 million to settle a shareholder class action accusing the drug maker of misrepresenting the clinical trial results for Celebrex.
The settlement was disclosed in court papers filed Friday in U.S. District Court in New Jersey. The accord came about two weeks before the company was to go to trial over allegations that it misled investors by distorting the results of a study of the arthritis drug.
Christopher Loder, a spokesman for Pfizer, in a statement Tuesday confirmed Pfizer had reached a settlement. Pfizer continues to deny wrongdoing, he said.
Patrick Coughlin, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, did not respond to a request for comment.
Pfizer acquired Pharmacia Corporation, which manufactured Celebrex, in 2002. Celebrex is Pfizer's fifth biggest-selling medicine, with annual sales of about $2.5 billion.
In 2003, shareholders sued Pfizer and certain former officers of Pharmacia for alleged violations of federal securities laws.
The lawsuits alleged that the defendants from 2000 to 2001 misrepresented the clinical trial results of Celebrex to make its safety profile appear better than rival drugs.
In 2007, U.S. District Judge Anne Thompson certified the investor class in the lawsuit. But she subsequently that year granted a motion by Pfizer to dismiss the case.
The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reinstated the case in 2009. The U.S. Supreme Court denied Pfizer's petition to review that ruling in May 2010.
Pfizer sought again to have the case dismissed in January, but Thompson denied the motion in May. A trial was scheduled for October 22.
Lawyers for the plaintiffs are applying for a contingency fee of 27.5 percent of the settlement, or $45.1 million.
The case is Alaska Electrical Pension Fund, et al. V. Pharmacia Corporation, et al., U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey, 03-cv-01519
(Reporting By Nate Raymond and Ransdell Pierson in New York; editing by Matthew Lewis)