Blue Cross Blue Shield entities from Texas, Illinois, New Mexico and Oklahoma (hereinafter “BCBS”) have filed a lawsuit against Pfizer over its marketing of three drugs. The allegations in the lawsuit state that the company pushed off-label uses of the drugs and used “kickbacks” to persuade doctors to prescribe them. The allegations made in the Complaints resemble those in the $2.3 billion settlement between Pfizer and the United States Department of Justice. Also named in the lawsuit are four Pfizer managers and ex-managers in their individual capacities. Those Pfizer employees and former employees are not company higher-ups. One was a district sales manager who allegedly prepared misleading sales materials to present to doctors.
According to the lawsuit, Pfizer not only handed out those misleading materials for off-label uses, but sent doctors on Caribbean junkets and paid them $2,000 in honoraria in return for them listening to lectures about Bextra. More than 5,000 healthcare professionals were entertained in meetings in the Bahamas, Virgin Islands and across the U.S., according to the lawsuit. Pfizer has responded stating:
This is a case of an insurance company seeking its money back for medicines that physicians prescribed appropriately using their best medical judgment.
Back in 2009, a former Pfizer sales manager was sentenced for off-label promotion of Bextra. The sales manager told Massachusetts officials that the company not only knew about her off-label activities, but actually encouraged them. It appears that off-label promotion of Bextra was “part of the Pfizer culture.” It should be noted that Pfizer settled with the federal government for $2.3 billion for off-label marketing regarding Bextra and Neurontin, among other drugs.
Source: Fierce Pharma
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