DoJ adds weight to Abbott whistleblower suit

The Justice Department is joining a whistleblower suit against Abbott Laboratories that alleges the drugmaker promoted its seizure drug Depakote for off-label uses. Former employees claim Abbott touted Depakote for patients with dementia and Alzheimer's disease, training its reps to push the drug off-label and using doctor seminars to promote it for unapproved uses.

The allegations aren't new; Abbott disclosed more than a year ago the feds were looking into its Depakote marketing practices. But as Pharmalot reports, by joining this whistleblower suit, the DoJ intensifies the pressure on Abbott--and signals that investigators believe the allegations may have merit.

Off-label marketing investigations have been the bane of Big Pharma over the past couple of years, as top drugmakers have agreed to pay hundreds of millions--even billions--to settle claims that they pushed products for uses not approved by the FDA. That's illegal, of course, and in some cases--such as Pfizer's $2.3 billion settlement of marketing claims involving its painkiller Bextra and several other drugs--company subsidiaries have pleaded guilty to criminal charges.

- read the Pharmalot post