Pfizer suppressed medical studies that did not support the drug maker’s campaign to boost sales of it epilepsy drug, Neurontin, according to experts hired by plaintiffs suing the company.
Documents filed in a federal court in Boston yesterday suggest Pfizer influenced Neurontin’s negative reports to boost sales until 2003, by postponing the publishing or altering the conclusion of studies that found no substantive evidence that the drug was an effective treatment option for various off label uses besides epilepsy.
In 2004, Pfizer agreed to pay $430 million to settle off-label marketing allegations involving Neurontin.
Off-label sales surged from 15 percent in 1994 to 94 percent in 2002, said the government. In 2002, Neurontin’s sales were $2.3 billion.
In April, a U.S. District Judge ruled Pfizer may face a class-action lawsuit brought by insurance companies on claims its Warner-Lambert sector falsely marketed Neurontin for uses not approved by the FDA.
Experts estimate 43 million off-label prescriptions have been written for Neurontin as a result of the company’s marketing promotions.
The lawsuit seeks reimbursement of funds spent on prescriptions for unapproved uses. Customers seek money spent on prescription co-payments.
Pfizer contends the lawsuits aren’t class-action worthy and should be tried as individual cases.
This case is the latest in a series of allegations brought against the pharmaceutical industry suggesting it has controlled clinical trial results in an effort to boost drug sales.
Lawyers preparing a case against Merck released 100 pages of internal Merck documents in August showing a drug trial testing the side effects of the soon-to-be launched painkiller, Vioxx, was a thinly-veiled marketing campaign framed as clinical science launched to promote the drug’s introduction to the market.
Vioxx generated approximately $2.5 billion in sales before it was pulled from the market in 2004 after studies showed it caused heart attacks and strokes.
And earlier this year Merck and Schering-Plow Corp came under fire for delaying the release of negative clinical trials of their cholesterol drug Vytorin. The company made available data that was completed in April 2006 but not released until January 2008. #