Pfizer Inc. (Pfizer) agreed to pay a record-breaking criminal recovery of $1.3 billion dollars in addition to $1 billion in civil recoveries to settle multiple whistleblowers’ False Claims Act civil cases alleging that the company caused the submission of false claims to the federal and states governments. Pfizer also entered into a Corporate Integrity Agreement with HHS-OIG. Pfizer did so to settle claims that, among other things, the company misbranded one of its pain killer drugs, promoted the off label use of numerous drugs, and paid kickbacks to doctors to induce or reward the prescription of Pfizer drugs.
As part of the settlement, Pfizer subsidiary Pharmacia & Upjohn Company, Inc. (“Pharmacia”) entered a guilty plea to a federal criminal indictment charging that the company “misbranded” the painkiller Bextra (valdecoxib) by promoting the drug for variety of conditions and at dosages other than those for which its use was approved by the Food and Drug Administration. Bextra was withdrawn from the market in 2005 after concerns about its safety profile, especially for cardiovascular risks, in long term users of the drug.
Attorneys Thomas and Durrell represented one of the whistleblowers whose claims were settled as part of this record breaking agreement. Our client’s qui tam complaint alleged nationwide misconduct in which Pfizer paid illegal remuneration for speaker programs, mentorships, preceptorships, so-called “journal clubs”, and gifts (including entertainment, cash, travel and meals) to health care professionals to induce them to promote and prescribe several drugs, including Lipitor®, Norvasc®, Viagra®, Zithromax®, and Zyrtec®, in violation of the Medicare and Medicaid Anti-Kickback Act and the False Claims Act. He also alleged that Pfizer had retaliated against him by firing him without good cause after he complained internally about Pfizer’s marketing practices.
A number of other such suits were filed by other whistleblowers. The government was able to substantiate allegations made in a number of the lawsuits and Pfizer agreed to pay the combined $2.3 billion record-breaking criminal and civil recovery of $1.3 billion dollars in addition to $1 billion to settle the civil cases.