Pharma's top 10 marketing settlements top $11B

The Justice Department is growing more and more impatient. For more than a decade, its lawyers and investigators have been slapping drugmakers around for their marketing misdoings. They've insisted on bigger and bigger penalties, especially during the last several years, with payments commonly topping $500 million. And yet the whistleblower lawsuits and off-label settlements keep coming.

Consider what's happened since 2004, when Pfizer ($PFE) inked a $430 million settlement with the feds for its misbegotten promotions of the seizure drug Neurontin. In 2005, Serono agreed to a $704 million deal for conspiring to market its AIDS-wasting drug Serostim off-label. Two years later, Purdue Pharma and Bristol-Myers Squibb ($BMY) wrapped up their investigations for a combined $1.15 billion. By 2009, the penalties had skyrocketed: Pfizer and Eli Lilly's ($LLY) settlements together amounted to $3.7 billion.

The deals show no sign of stopping. At the end of 2011 came Merck's ($MRK) $950 million Vioxx deal. Abbott Laboratories' ($ABT) $1.6 billion Depakote deal was finalized earlier this year. More marketing settlements are expected by year's end, too: Johnson & Johnson ($JNJ) is reportedly very close to a settlement of at least $1.6 billion, perhaps as much as $2.2 billion, covering its marketing of the antipsychotic Risperdal and a handful of other products.

To put the latest deals in context, FiercePharma looked back over the past decade for the biggest settlements. And as our Top-10 ranking shows, these high-paying drugmakers agreed to more than $11 billion in penalties for their misbehavior. And that doesn't include smaller off-label deals that didn't make the list: Novartis' ($NVS) $422.5 million Trileptal deal, inked in 2010. Cephalon's ($CEPH) $425 million settlement. Or Forest Laboratories' ($FRX) $313 million or Elan's $203 million, to name a few of the most recent. Add all of them in, and the total is close to $14 billion.

Check out our list for details on the Justice Department probes and their pricey resolutions. Let us know what you think about the latest enforcement trends. Unless and until free-speech challenges succeed at tempering off-label marketing restrictions, those trends are likely to continue. Click here to read the full report >> --Tracy Staton (email | Twitter)