Have off-label marketing deals deterred bad behavior?

Have the much-publicized off-label marketing settlements had any effect on drugmakers? The companies say yes. So do some experts. But others aren't so sure.

At least that's the message in a Star-Ledger analysis of the recent off-label marketing settlements that roped in Pfizer, Eli Lilly, Johnson & Johnson's Ortho-McNeil unit, and AstraZeneca. As the newspapers points out--as many observers have noted--even the billion-dollar-plus settlements amount to just a fraction of the sales of the drugs marketed for unapproved uses. How, then, can fines change behavior?

Well, Pfizer tells the Star-Ledger that it's been taking "aggressive actions" to "strengthen internal controls." And it promises that it "regrets certain actions taken in the past that gave rise to the recent settlement." And at least one expert thinks the government prosecutions of off-label infractions have put Pfizer and its fellow drugmakers "on notice" that they need to comply with the law.

But marketing skeptic Adriane Fugh-Berman of Georgetown University Medical Center remains unconvinced. "As long as off-label promotion is more profitable than the fines for punishing off-label promotion, we will have off-label promotion," she told the newspaper.

- read the Star-Ledger piece

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