Pfizer's first trial regarding the epilepsy drug Neurontin is officially over--after just one day of testimony. The lawsuit was brought by the family of Susan Bulger, a Massachusetts woman who committed suicide in 2004. Although Neurontin is only approved for epilepsy, Bulger had been prescribed the drug for mood swings and arthritis--a direct result of Pfizer's off-label marketing practices, the suit claimed. The plaintiff's attorney, Mark Lanier, called the case "near-impossible" and a U.S. district judge said earlier this month that the suit was "a very tough case" given Bulger's personal history, which involved involved drug abuse, prostitution and several suicide attempts.
But the family has waited two years to get their case before a jury; what prompted the sudden change of heart? They were swayed by the altruism of a mystery donor who offered to start a trust fund for Bulger's 10-year-old daughter. The samaritan was a friend of Lanier's who didn't want want the young girl to have to endure a trial.
The Bulger case was dismissed with prejudice, but Pfizer is still facing about 1,200 other lawsuits that charge the drugmaker with failing to warn patients about Neurontin's suicide risks. "Pfizer has not paid anything in exchange for plaintiff's dismissal and continues to believe that there is no scientifically reliable evidence that Neurontin causes suicidal behavior," Amy Schulman, the company's general counsel, said in an e-mailed statement to Bloomberg.