Utah gets $3.5 million from Pfizer in fraud settlement

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Press releaseSALT LAKE CITY -- Attorney General Mark Shurtleff announced today that Utah will receive $3.5 million from a settlement with Pfizer, Inc. over illegal kickbacks and off-label marketing campaigns. Pfizer is paying more than $1 billion to federal and state healthcare programs, making it the largest settlement in history in a health care fraud matter.

"Pfizer's failure to comply with the law is an example of corporate greed and placing profits before patient safety," says Shurtleff. "Utah will continue to aggressively pursue drug companies that place our citizens at risk by marketing drugs for uses that have not been tested or approved."

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The civil damages and penalties will compensate Medicaid, Medicare and various federal healthcare programs for harm suffered as a result of its conduct. A Pfizer subsidiary, Pharmacia & Upjohn Company, Inc., will also plead guilty to a felony violation and pay a criminal fine and forfeiture of $1.3 billion.

"What we are witnessing with drug companies like Pfizer, is not merely rule breaking, but placing patient safety at risk," says Robert Steed, Director of the Utah Medicaid Fraud Control Unit. "Unfortunately, modern medicine is still susceptible to modern marketing." A physician can legally prescribe a drug for an unapproved use but federal law prohibits a manufacturer from promoting a drug for uses not approved by the FDA. Examples of Pfizer's promotions included:

  • Marketing the anti-inflammatory drug Bextra for non-approved conditions and dosages.
  • Promoting the anti-psychotic drug Geodon for attention deficit disorder, autism, dementia and depression for patients, including children and adolescents.
  • Selling the pain medication Lyrica for non-approved conditions.
  • Making false statements about the safety and efficacy of the antibiotic Zyvox.

Pfizer is also alleged to have illegally paid health care professionals to promote and prescribe Bextra, Geodon, Lyrica, Zyvox, Aricept, Celebrex, Lipitor, Norvasc, Relpax, Viagra, Zithromax, Zoloft and Zyrtec. Pfizer will enter into a Corporate Integrity Agreement with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Inspector General, which will closely monitor the company's future marketing and sales practices.

The Utah Attorney General's Office oversees the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit to protect the integrity of Utah's Medicaid program. The public can learn more about Medicaid fraud or report abuse by clicking here.

(Courtesy of the Utah Attorney General's office)

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