Health Support Awareness Inc. has filed a whistleblower suit against Pfizer Inc. accusing the pharmaceutical giant of misbranding and promoting its statin, Lipitor, in deceptive ways that led customers to defraud Medicare, Medicaid and others. The lawsuit was unsealed in a Massachusetts federal court on Jan. 10. It’s alleged in the suit that Pfizer’s campaign to keep the drug in demand and its price high cheated the government out of billions of dollars. The complaint says that between 2007 and 2010 alone, 43 percent of Medicare patients were on some form of statin, which cost the government-run health program $6.7 billion in 2010 alone. It’s alleged in the complaint:
The damage caused by Pfizer’s misleading marketing campaign and its manipulation of patient information for Lipitor has cost government-sponsored health care programs and consumers billions of dollars over the last decade. Pfizer’s aggressive attitude to increase sales and market share resulted in unprecedented profits at the expense of the entire health care system.
It’s alleged in the suit that Pfizer pushed behind the scenes for doctor-recommended cholesterol levels to be lowered, which in turn increased demand for the drug. As Lipitor’s patent approached its sunset, Pfizer negotiated a “pay to delay” deal with Ranbaxy, which had planned to market a generic version of the drug. Then Pfizer entered an exclusive deal with Watson Pharmaceuticals that would allow the two companies to release a generic at the same time as Ranbaxy. It’s alleged that about 70 percent of generic-Lipitor profits went to Pfizer as a result.
Meanwhile, Pfizer developed a “Lipitor for You” program in which patients could pay a $4 copay for the drug while Pfizer offered to pay $50 of the difference between that copayment and patients’ normal, brand-name copayment. It’s alleged that Pfizer subsequently increased its subsidy to $75 per prescription — up to $1,000 per patient per year. It also continued increasing the drug’s price while keeping its ads in front of current and potential consumers. Pfizer’s Lipitor marketing prompted several warning letters from the FDA’s Division of Drug Marketing, Advertising and Communication between 1998 and 2011. That Division ordered Pfizer to discontinue one ad during a conference call in 1998, according to the complaint, because it overstated the drug’s effects and didn’t use consumer-friendly language.
Health Support Awareness, in the complaint, is seeking treble damages and civil penalties on behalf of the United States of America, “in connection with the systematic misbranding and illegal marketing by Pfizer.” But the government has declined to intervene, which prompted U.S. District Court Judge Nathaniel M. Gorton to unseal the case.
Contact us today for a free legal consultation with an experienced attorney.
Fields marked *may be required for submission.
If you would like to subscribe to the Jere Beasley Report digital edition, simply visit our Subscriptions page and provide the necessary information or call us at 800-898-2034.
Attorney Advertising - Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome.