A unit of Manhattan-based Pfizer Inc. agreed to plead guilty to criminal violations and pay $430 million to settle charges that it engaged in illegal marketing of its prescription anti-seizure drug Neurontin.
Warner-Lambert, which Pfizer bought four years ago, was accused by 50 state attorneys general and the National Medicaid Fraud Control Unit of promoting Neurontin for "off-label" uses, including the treatment of psychiatric disorders, back pain and headaches, though the medication is approved only for epilepsy and shingles-related neuralgia.
From 1996 to 2000, Warner-Lambert allegedly encouraged doctors to prescribe the drug for nonapproved uses by giving them kickbacks, excessive speaker fees, and lavish trips; deliberately distorted studies on the drug; and provided incomplete information about the drug to a major drug reference manual.
While it's not illegal for doctors to prescribe medications for off-label uses, it's illegal for companies to encourage them to do so by misrepresenting drugs' effectiveness.
Pfizer has said the lawsuit stemmed from actions that occurred before the purchase. In January, the company said it had set aside $403 million, after taxes, to settle the probes.
Copyright 2004, Crain Communications, Inc.
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Read the Pfizer corporate integrity agreement.