A jury has found that Pfizer, Inc. violated the federal racketeering law by improperly promoting its epilepsy drug, Neurontin. The jury ordered the world’s largest drug maker to pay $47 million in damages. The penalty is automatically tripled under the RICO act, so the verdict will actually cost Pfizer $141 million, but the company says it will appeal the verdict.
The Kaiser Foundation Hospitals and Kaiser Foundation Health Plan alleged that Pfizer had illegally promoted Neurontin for unapproved uses. Some of the uses were for migraine headaches, pain and also bipolar disorder. It appears that the drug doesn’t work for those purposes.
This is not the first bad thing that has occurred for this drug company. Pfizer, in 2004, agreed to pay $430 million to federal and state governments and pleaded guilty to criminal charges of illegally marketing the drug Neurontin. Pfizer contends that the judge improperly allowed details of that case and settlement to be considered by the Boston jury.
Pending against Pfizer, there are 1,000 civil lawsuits, accusing it of illegally promoting Neurontin for unapproved uses and helping to cause some users’ suicides. Along with the $430 million settlement of allegtations over Neurontin, Pfizer also paid $2.3 billion in October 2009 to resolve U.S. Justice Department allegations that it illegally marketed the pain killer Bextra and three other drugs.