TRENTON, N.J. - The drugmaker Pfizer Inc. has agreed to pay the government $14.5 million to settle charges it illegally marketed its drug for a condition called overactive bladder.
The settlement disclosed Friday resolves the last of 10 whistleblower lawsuits, dating back to 2003, that claimed Pfizer marketed a number of its prescription medicines for unapproved uses. Pfizer agreed to pay $2.3 billion in September 2009 to settle both criminal charges and civil claims in many of those cases. The rest were dismissed.
In the final case, Pfizer was accused of marketing overactive bladder drug Detrol for men with enlarged prostates and related conditions including bladder obstruction. The drug wasn't approved for those uses. It is approved for treating frequent urination, sudden urges to go and bladder leaks.
The settlement was announced Friday by the U.S. Attorney's office in Boston.
"We hope and expect that this is indicative of a commitment to move forward in compliance with the law," Carmen M. Ortiz, U.S. Attorney for the District of Massachusetts, said in a statement. "We will continue to watch vigilantly to ensure that Pfizer complies with the law in its sales and marketing of drugs."
New York-based Pfizer, the world's biggest drugmaker by revenue, said in a statement it denies all allegations of wrongdoing and that the "settlement allows Pfizer to avoid the cost and distraction of litigation."
It noted the company has put "numerous controls and oversight mechanisms in place to ensure compliance with state and federal laws," including a corporate compliance committee.
The $14.5 million penalty will be shared, with $2.6 million going to state Medicaid programs and $11.8 million going to the federal government. Whistleblowers who reported the alleged marketing activity will receive $3.2 million from the federal government share, under provisions of the False Claims Act covering whistleblower suits.
The $2.3 billion settlement with the government two years ago was Pfizer's fourth in a decade and covered allegations it illegally marketed top sellers Lipitor, Viagra and 11 other drugs. Pfizer was accused of paying to send doctors to consultant meetings at resorts and giving them other perks.
At the time, Mike Loucks, then-U.S. Attorney in Massachusetts, said that as Pfizer was negotiating deals on past misconduct, it was violating the law in marketing other drugs. The 2009 agreement required Pfizer's conduct to be monitored by the government for five years.
Pfizer shares rose 44 cents, or 2.4 per cent, to $19.17 in midday trading amid a broad market rally.