Pfizer lost its bid to escape a multimillion-dollar racketeering verdict when a federal jury ruled that the drugmaker's marketing of the epilepsy drug Neurontin violated federal and state law. Now, Pfizer faces damages of up to $142 million in the case.
Kaiser Foundation's health plan and hospitals had sued the drugmaker, claiming that it had spent more money than necessary on Neurontin because of Pfizer's marketing of the drug for off-label uses. Not only did the drugmaker push the drug for those unapproved indications, but Pfizer knew the drug didn't work for those uses, either, Kaiser claimed.
Kaiser calculated that it had overpaid for Neurontin on five unapproved uses--to the tune of about $90 million. The jury, however, set damages at just over half of that: $47 million. Under the racketeering law, those damages are automatically tripled; hence the $142 million total. "We hope this decision will send a message to the medical community and pharmaceutical industry that manufacturers must adhere to high ethical and legal standards in their research and marketing of drugs," Kaiser says in a statement.
Pfizer says it disagrees with the ruling--and will fight it. "We are disappointed with the verdict and will pursue post-trial motions and an appeal," spokesman Christopher Loder says in a statement (as quoted by Dow Jones). "The verdict and the judge's rulings are not consistent with the facts and the law."