Pfizer has received another legal boost with the news of a New York court ruling that may result in the dismissal of many lawsuits relating to the painkiller Celebrex.

New York Supreme Court Justice Shirley Kornreich ruled that people (and the lawyers) suing the drugmaker had failed to present reliable data to prove that Celebrex (celecoxib), at its most commonly used 200mg daily dose, can cause heart attacks and strokes. She noted that “the scientific evidence, whether for a heart attack or stroke, is just not there”.

The ruling follows a similar decision in November from the US District Court of Northern California which noted that no controlled trials, meta-analyses or observational studies could find an association between Celebrex 200 mg/day and a risk of heart attack or stroke. Pfizer now says that “together, the two decisions render certain expert opinions inadmissible, which we believe could result in the dismissal of many Celebrex cases”. It added that the majority of those cases, and more than 3,000 plaintiffs have brought lawsuits against Pfizer, are pending in the two courts that issued the decisions.

The New York-based behemoth noted that most of the Celebrex lawsuits were filed after the US Food and Drug Administration held advisory committee hearings in 2005 on the cardiovascular risk of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. Then, the agency concluded that based on the available data, Celebrex's benefits outweigh its risks for appropriate patients at approved doses and the drug is still on the market, unlike the firm’s other COX-2 inhibitor Bextra (valdecoxib) and Merck & Co’s Vioxx (rofecoxib).

Pfizer’s general counsel Allen Waxman said that “we believe that these rulings will greatly limit the scope of this litigation, and we intend to continue to vigorously defend the cases against us”.