Manufacturers of the drug Neurontin reached a $325 million class action lawsuit settlement Wednesday over allegations they fraudulently marketed the prescription drug, which is used to treat seizures, restless leg syndrome, and pain caused by shingles. Sommers Schwartz partner Jason Thompson was among the class action attorneys to first sue Pfizer over ten years ago for the abuses. The cases were filed on behalf of third-party payers – union funds, self-insured municipalities, and heath insurance companies – who had been overcharged for the drug.
The Neurontin settlement marks the end to a nearly 10-year-old class action lawsuit battle in which plaintiffs, who included both direct purchasers and third-party payers, accused Pfizer of delaying generic versions of Neurontin and promoted the drug for unapproved uses. Pfizer reached a $190 million Neurontin class action settlement with direct purchasers of the drug (consumers) in April.
The plaintiffs in the Neurontin lawsuit alleged that Pfizer delayed competition from generic producers of the drug, gabapentin anhydrous, which Pfizer sold under the name Neurontin, by exercising a monopoly over the medicine. The plaintiffs alleged that Pfizer’s actions included illegal off-label promotion, manipulating the patent application process, filing bogus patent lawsuits, and engaging in fraud, which the plaintiffs claim amounted to violations of the Sherman Act. As a result, the plaintiffs claimed they had to overpay for Neurontin.
The current settlements represent further punishment for Pfizer. In 2004, following an investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice, Pfizer pleaded guilty to criminal charges of illegal marketing of Neurontin, and was hit with a $430 million fine, sparking the Neurontin class action lawsuit.
Mr. Thompson said, “We are happy to report that the Neurontin settlement will provide cash awards to third-party payors in the United States. It was a marathon. The attorneys with whom we worked over the decade were tireless, determined, and convinced that we would prevail. We did.”
The Neurontin class action settlement reached in April will apply to consumers in the United States that purchased Neurontin from Pfizer at any time during the period of December 11, 2002 through August 31, 2008, and who have purchased generic gabapentin.
Details regarding how third-party payors can file claims for both the consumer Neurontin class action settlement and the third-party payor settlement will be made available on www.NeurontinSettlement.com.
The Neurontin TPP Antitrust Class Action Lawsuit is In re: Neurontin Marketing & Sales Practices Litigation, Case No. 1:04-cv-10981, MDL 1629, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts.