US healthcare giant Bristol-Myers Squibb said yesterday that a judge has granted preliminary approval to its proposed $185-million settlement of a securities class-action litigation relating to its once much-anticipated hypertension drug Vanlev (omapatrilat).

According to the firm, in the spring of 2000 plaintiffs brought lawsuits against the group and certain executives claiming violations of federal securities laws and regulations. The shareholders’ suit alleges that the company touted Vanlev as a potential blockbuster despite being aware of its poor safety profile as far back as 1996.

Vanlev, a novel dual-action anti-hypertensive agent, was once tipped to become B-MS' top-selling drug, with a peak sales tag of $3 billion and up. But a spate of weak clinical trials culminated in a US Food and Drug Administration advisory panel rejecting the drug, and so active development was terminated, slashing the company's share-price at the time.