Pharmaceutical giant Pfizer has reached a settlement with 41 states and the District of Columbia over claims that its Wyeth division illegally encouraged health care providers to prescribe the drug Rapamune for off-label applications. According to the terms of the settlement, reported in a Reuters article, Pfizer will pay $35 million and adhere to restrictions on the marketing of its other prescription drugs.
In 1999, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration approved Rapamune to help prevent patients’ immune systems from rejecting kidney transplants. But Wyeth allegedly trained its sales representatives to promote Rapamune to doctors and hospitals for non-approved uses, including combining it with other drugs and prescribing it to patients who had received heart, lung, and liver transplants. This conduct allegedly took place before Pfizer acquired Wyeth in 2009, and neither Wyeth nor Pfizer has acknowledged any wrongdoing.
This $35 million settlement follows on the heels of several other high-profile Pfizer settlements. In June 2014, Pfizer settled with third-party payer plaintiffs for $325 million over claims that it had marketed the drug Neurontin for off-label uses and violated state antitrust laws (Sommers Schwartz partner Jason Thompson was one of the attorneys who represented the plaintiffs in that lawsuit). In April 2014, the company agreed to pay $190 million to settle claims that it had tried to keep generic versions of Neurontin from reaching the market. In July 2013, Pfizer resolved another claim of off-label Rapamune marketing, reaching a $490.9 million settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice. And in May 2004, Pfizer pleaded guilty to criminal charges and agreed to pay $430 million for off-label Neurontin marketing.