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Shiley Heart Valve Lines Will Be Sold

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Pfizer Inc. said Friday that it is selling most of the product lines of its trouble-plagued Shiley Inc. heart-valve manufacturing subsidiary to an Italian company for an undisclosed price.

Shiley’s line of cardiovascular products will be sold to the FIAT Group, a diversified industrial company based in Milan with $2 billion in annual revenue. It is not related to the car company.

Pfizer, based in New York, expects the deal to close in February. The company will retain the Shiley Heart Valve Research Center, as well as responsibility for legal liabilities generated by alleged defects in heart valves marketed by the subsidiary from 1979 to 1986. The Bjork-Shiley Convexo/Concave heart valves in question have not been made since 1986.

Shiley faces class-action lawsuits on behalf of 55,000 patients who received heart valve implants. As of Aug. 31, the most recent company figures available, 448 valves had fractured, resulting in death for roughly two-thirds of the patients, the company said.

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Company officials declined to comment on the purchase price, but Edward C. Bessey, chief executive of Pfizer Hospital Products Group, said the amount will not have a “significant impact on the financial statements of Pfizer.”

Pfizer stock closed at $74.50 a share Friday, up $1.25 cents in trading on the New York Stock Exchange. Volume was a heavy 1.3 million shares.

The product lines to be sold include cardiovascular devices used in open-heart surgery, automated blood transfusion devices, the Monostrut artificial heart valve (which is sold outside the United States) and a line of tracheotomy tubes, used to help patients with breathing difficulties. The sale includes the Irvine plant where the allegedly faulty heart valves were made.

Most of Shiley’s 2,100 employees worldwide will be retained by the new owner, Bessey said in a statement. Robert Fauteux, spokesman for Shiley in Irvine, said most of the 1,100 employees in Irvine will be employed by FIAT Group. He said the company will not know until after the deal closes what effect it will have on Shiley’s management team.

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The research center in Irvine will continue to do technical research and provide patient-related services (such as registering patients with potentially defective heart valves) for the Bjork-Shiley Convexo/Concave heart valves, Fauteux said.


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