Pfizer Inc. (Pfizer), the world’s largest pharmaceutical drugmaker manufacturer, was recently ordered to pay over $142 million in damages because of its illegal marketing of its epilepsy drug Neurontin. To date, there are more than 300 lawsuits against Pfizer for claims that involve accusations that Pfizer mislead consumers and marketed Neurontin, its epilepsy drug, as a drug for use in the treatment of migraines and bipolar disorder, however, neither were approved for such use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (USFDA).
U.S. District Judge Patti Saris in Boston, Massachusetts, upheld the jury’s finding that Kaiser Foundation Health Plan Inc. and Kaiser Foundation Hospitals deserved the award over the companies’ claims that Pfizer illegally promoted Neurontin for unapproved uses. Pursuant to a provision of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act of 1970 (RICO), Judge Saris tripled the jury’s award of $47.3 million. Although Kaiser officials requested an estimated $76 million in interest on the award, based on allegations that they were deceived into believing that migraines and bipolar disorder could be effectively treated with Neurontin (a Pfizer drug that was approved by the USFDA in 1993 for epilepsy), the judge denied Kaiser’s request. The California-based Kaiser, the first insurer to bring to trial a Neurontin case against Pfizer, claimed that it was forced to pay $90 million more than it should have for the drug.
New York-based Pfizer currently defends against more than 300 lawsuits that accuse the corporate drug giant of illegally promoting Neurontin or hiding its health risks. Lawyers that represent ex-Neurontin users allege that the drugmaker knew the medicine posed a suicide risk yet failed to disclose the risk to patients and doctors. The drug manufacturing company also settled at least two suits alleging that the Neurontin drug played a role in users’ suicides, was paid nearly $400,000 in one of the settlements.
Prior to Pfizer’s acquisition of Warner-Lambert Co. in 2000, the drugmaker developed and marketed Neurontin; and four years later, Warner-Lambert Co. pleaded guilty and agreed to pay $430 million to resolve off-label marketing allegations by the U.S. Justice Department.
Judge Saris oversees the Neurontin cases that are filed nationwide, consolidated in federal court, and combined to form the class action known as In re Neurontin Marketing, Sales Practices and Products Liability Litigation, MDL 1629, U.S. District Court, District of Massachusetts (Boston Division).
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