Neurontin witness talks off-label

The first Neurontin trial is shaping up to be an off-label marketing trial. "The company made a conscious decision to do something illegal--marketing this drug off-label," plaintiffs' lawyer Mark Lanier said druing his opening statements (as quoted by Bloomberg). Backing that assertion: Testimony from former rep David Franklin, whose whistleblower suit resulted in a $430 million settlement between Warner-Lambert and the U.S. Justice Department.

Franklin testified that he "was trained from day one" to market the drug illegally, using a list of 13 ailments Neurontin could treat, when it was FDA-approved only as an epilepsy drug. Among those ailments: migraine headaches and restless leg syndrome. "My job was to promote Neurontin and motivate doctors to experiment" on patients, he said.

As you know, Neurontin was acquired by Pfizer in its buyout of Warner-Lambert, and Pfizer is quick to remind us of that. Its lawyer William Ohlemeyer pointed out in court that the off-label marketing covered by that government settlement happened before Pfizer took over Warner-Lambert. Plus, he said, the plaintiff--Susan Bulger--wasn't prescribed Neurontin because of off-label marketing. Bulger's family claims that Pfizer (as Warner-Lambert) promoted the drug off-label and failed to warn it could boost the risk of suicide.

- read the Bloomberg story