Pfizer loses Rezulin suit, agrees on large settlement

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CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Pfizer agreed yesterday to settle a lawsuit over the diabetes drug Rezulin after a jury earlier in the day awarded $43 million to a Texas woman who said it destroyed her liver. The settlement was the first of what could become a series of payouts involving the drug that has been blamed for 63 liver-failure deaths and dozens of liver failures worldwide.

People familiar with the settlement said the company would pay more than $30 million to Margarita Sanchez, 63, who has been on a transplant waiting list since her liver failed after taking Rezulin for two months in 1999. The payment is expected to influence the course of thousands of other lawsuits over the drug, which was pulled from the market in March 2000.

Pfizer's Warner-Lambert unit makes Rezulin.

The first jury to get a Rezulin lawsuit acquitted the company earlier this week of liability in the death of a 58-year-old woman. A third case went to a jury in Missouri earlier this week.

The FDA approved Rezulin in 1997 to treat type II diabetes. Nearly 2 million people took the drug before it was removed from the market. Warner-Lambert made $1.6 billion on the drug.

Philadelphia, state officials agree to privatize schools

PHILADELPHIA — State and city leaders agreed yesterday on a state takeover of the troubled Philadelphia school system as part of a plan to install a private company to help run the district and dozens of its worst schools.

The deal was announced just hours before a midnight deadline.

The move to bring in Edison Schools would be the nation's biggest experiment in school privatization. The contract is believed to be worth more than $100 million.

Under the agreement, a five-member commission — three members appointed by the governor and two by the mayor — will replace the school board. The commission will hire a chief executive, decide how many schools are to be made private and approve contracts with private education companies.

Cuban migrants get close to U.S., then run out of gas

MIAMI — A group of 29 Cuban migrants and two suspected smugglers en route to Florida traveled to within 17 miles of the U.S. shoreline yesterday when their 31-foot speedboat ran out of gas.

U.S. Coast Guard rescue boats from Miami and Fort Lauderdale towed the speedboat to calmer waters, where the occupants were being interviewed.

Stress brought on by fear of four may cause deaths, study says

LOS ANGELES — Beware the number four — or at least the power of the ancient superstition that links the number to death.

A researcher at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) has found that deaths caused by heart attacks among U.S. residents of Chinese and Japanese descent tend to spike on the fourth of the month, an increase linked to the stress brought about by fear of the number itself.

David Phillips, a UCSD sociologist, and his team found 13 percent more deaths caused by heart attack than expected on the fourth of the month for Japanese Americans and Chinese Americans over a 25-year period that ended in 1998.

The study is in the December edition of the British Medical Journal.