HARRISBURG — Attorney General Tom Corbett announced that Pennsylvania will receive $14 million as the result of two national settlements with Pfizer Inc. resolving allegations that the drug company engaged in improper marketing for numerous pre scri ption drugs.
The joint federal and state investigation alleged that Pfizer, the largest pharmaceuticals manufacturer in the world, engaged in a pattern of unlawful marketing activity, including “off-label” marketing and kickbacks to promote and sell a number of drugs.
Corbett explained that off-label marketing involves promoting a drug for uses that have not been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). While it is not illegal for a physician to prescribe a drug for an unapproved use, federal law prohibits a manufacturer from promoting a drug for uses not approved by the FDA.
The criminal portion of the case centers on the illegal marketing and promotion of Bextra, an anti-inflammatory drug that was withdrawn from the market in 2005. Other allegations include promoting the use of the antipsychotic drug Geodon for a variety of off-label conditions such as attention deficit disorder, autism, dementia and depression; selling the pain medication Lyrica for unapproved conditions; and making false representations about the safety and effectiveness of Zyvox, an antibiotic only approved to treat certain drug resistant infections.
Additionally, Pfizer allegedly paid illegal kickbacks to doctors, including gifts, speaker programs, mentorships and other promotions as inducements to promote and prescribe various drugs, including Bextra, Geodon, Lyrica, Zyvox, Aricept, Celebrex, Lipitor, Norvasc, Relpax, Viagra, Zithromax, Zoloft and Zyrtec. Federal law prohibits payment of anything of value in exchange for prescribing a product paid for by a federal health care program.
Corbett said the combined national civil and criminal settlements with Pfizer total more than $2.3 billion and also include a federal guilty plea by a Pfizer subsidiary, Pharmacia & Upjohn Inc. It is the largest settlement in history involving a health care fraud matter.
As the result of these settlements, Pennsylvania will receive $12.9 million, plus interest, as repayment for excessive and unwarranted claims paid by the state’s Medicaid program. Additionally, the Commonwealth will receive $1.17 million to support future consumer protection investigations and consumer education.
As a condition of the settlement, Pfizer will enter into a Corporate Integrity Agreement with the United States Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Inspector General, which will closely monitor the company’s future marketing and sales practices.
Corbett said the investigation for Pennsylvania was handled by the Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Section and the Attorney General’s Health Care Section.