Marketing of Neurontin
Neurontin is one of Pfizer’s best-selling drugs and has been among the 50 most-prescribed drugs in the U.S. since 2003. More than 12 million people in 60 countries have used Neurontin, and its sales are nearing the $3 billion mark annually. In recent years, however, Pfizer has come under criticism for its marketing of Neurontin, including allegations that it quietly marketed the drug for at least a dozen off-label uses.
Lawsuit filed against world’s biggest drug company
In April 2004, a Neurontin lawsuit against Pfizer, the world’s largest pharmaceutical company, alleged that it illegally and fraudulently reaped millions of dollars in profits by marketing Neurontin for unapproved, or “off-label” uses. Neurontin was approved by the FDA in 1993 as an adjunct (add-on) therapy for controlling partial epileptic seizures.
Warner-Lambert’s Parke-Davis division, which was acquired by Pfizer in 2000, used aggressive and illegal strategies to market and promote Neurontin for untested uses. It is illegal for a drug company to market a medication for unapproved uses.
Fraudulent marketing scheme pays off
In order to increase the sales of Neurontin, Pfizer embarked on a fraudulent marketing scheme, deliberately misrepresenting the scientific, medical and clinical data about how safe, effective and useful Neurontin was for conditions other than epilepsy.
As a result, health insurers paid claims for Neurontin to treat a variety of off-label conditions for which the drug was not proven to be helpful. Needless to say, Pfizer’s marketing practices made no mention of the potential side effects of Neurontin, the most serious being the increased tendency to commit suicide.
Pfizer’s scheme reaped huge financial returns, as revenue for Neurontin jumped from $97.5 million in 1995 to nearly $2.7 billion in 2003. By then, some 90% of all Neurontin prescriptions were for off-label uses. In 2004, Pfizer pled guilty and agreed to pay $430 million to resolve all criminal charges and civil liabilities related to its illegal and fraudulent marketing of Neurontin.