A leading maker of health-care products on Friday announced an agreement to settle lawsuits arising from a faulty artificial heart valve blamed for about 300 deaths.
Pfizer Inc. agreed to create a fund of $80 million to $130 million to pay members of a class action lawsuit for cardiac consultation. It also offered compensation of $500,000 to $2 million to any recipient whose valve malfunctioned.It would set aside $75 million for research to identify valve recipients who may have significant risk of fracture.
A June 5 hearing was scheduled in federal court, which must approve the settlement.
Pfizer said it agreed to settle a lawsuit in U.S. District Court stemming from the failure of some of the Bjork-Shiley Convexo-Concave heart valves made by a subsidiary.
Pfizer said the valve, sold from 1979 to 1986, had been implanted in nearly 86,000 people worldwide. It's been blamed for about 300 deaths that resulted from the breakage of a metal wire that makes a disk inside the valve open and close.
"While we continue to believe that functioning valve claims are without merit, putting this complex, costly and time-consuming litigation behind us will eliminate the disruptions and uncertainties involved in complex litigation," said Pfizer President William C. Steere Jr.
Cincinnati attorney Stan Chesley filed the lawsuit for people who have had the valve implant and fear that it may fracture.
"We think it's a very exciting move in the right direction," Chesley said.
Dr. Roger Sachs, president of the Shiley Heart Valve Research Center in Irvine, Calif., said the company has replaced the valve with another that has worked without malfunctioning.
The failure rate for the defective valve is about seven out of 10,000 per year.