Pfizer faces first Neurontin court fight

Pfizer goes to court next week in its first defense of the epilepsy med Neurontin. In what's expected to be the first of some 1,200 cases involving the drug's possible links to suicide, the presiding judge has already called the suit "very tough" for the plaintiffs to win, Bloomberg reports. Nonetheless, the legal community is watching this trial closely for indications of Pfizer's defense strategy.

Court filings offer a taste of what's to come. Pfizer claims that the suicide victim, Susan Bulger, had attempted suicide "multiple times" before she ever took Neurontin. In addition, Bulger had a history of addiction to cocaine, heroin, Methadone and Oxycontin, Pfizer filings claim. Robert Rabin, a law professor at Stanford, told Bloomberg, "If she was taking other drugs, there's a question if this particular drug contributed to the suicide."

Complicating matters for Pfizer, however, is a recent FDA warning that epilepsy meds boost the risk of suicide. Plus, the plaintiffs' lawyer, Mark Lanier--well known from his involvement in Vioxx litigation--says he plans to highlight Pfizer's checkered past with Neurontin. As you know, the company's Warner-Lambert unit paid $430 million in 2004 to resolve off-label marketing claims from the U.S. Justice Department. The plaintiffs in the Bulger case are allowed to introduce evidence about that settlement, Bloomberg notes.

- read the Bloomberg coverage