For Immediate Release
Media Contact: Bob Cooper
(208) 334-4112

Date: September 2, 2009

Idaho to Receive $650,000 from Record Health Care Fraud Settlement

(Boise) - Idaho will receive $658,528 in restitution and other recoveries as the state’s share of the largest health care fraud settlement in U.S. history, Attorney General Lawrence Wasden said. Wasden joined other states and the federal government in a settlement with Pfizer, Inc., the world’s largest pharmaceutical manufacturer.

The Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit and the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare’s Division of Medicaid reached an agreement with Pfizer that resolves allegations that the drug maker and its subsidiaries paid kickbacks and engaged in off-label marketing campaigns that improperly promoted numerous drugs.

Pfizer will pay the states and the federal government a total of $1 billion in civil damages and penalties to compensate Medicaid, Medicare, and various federal healthcare programs for harm suffered as a result of its conduct.

In addition, a Pfizer subsidiary, Pharmacia & Upjohn Company, Inc., has agreed to plead guilty to a felony violation of the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FDCA) and to pay a criminal fine and forfeiture of $1.3 billion. The criminal component of the resolution centers on the illegal marketing and promotion of Bextra, an anti-inflammatory drug that Pfizer pulled from the market in 2005. Because of the illegal promotion, Pharmacia & Upjohn Company has agreed to plead guilty to a felony violation of the FDCA for misbranding the drug with the intent to defraud or mislead.

The government entities alleged that Pfizer engaged in a pattern of unlawful marketing activity to promote multiple drugs for certain uses which the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had not approved. It is not illegal for a physician to prescribe a drug for an unapproved use, also known as “off-label” use. However, federal law prohibits a manufacturer from promoting a drug for uses not approved by the FDA.

Unlawful activity by Pfizer included:

  • Marketing Bextra for conditions and dosages other than those for which it was approved;
  • Promoting the use of the antipsychotic drug Geodon for a variety of off-label conditions such as attention deficit disorder, autism, dementia and depression for patients that included children and adolescents;
  • Selling the pain medication Lyrica for unapproved conditions;
  • Making false representations about the safety and efficacy of Zyvox, an antibiotic approved to treat only certain drug resistant infections.

In addition to the improper off-label marketing of these drugs, Pfizer is alleged to have illegally paid health care professionals to induce them to promote and prescribe Bextra, Geodon, Lyrica, Zyvox, Aricept, Celebrex, Lipitor, Norvasc, Relpax, Viagra, Zithromax, Zoloft and Zyrtec. These payments allegedly took many forms, including entertainment, cash, travel and meals. Federal law prohibits payment of anything of value in exchange for the prescribing of a product paid for by a federal health care program.

As a condition of the settlement, Pfizer will enter into a Corporate Integrity Agreement with the United States Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Inspector General, which will closely monitor the company’s future marketing and sales practices.

$329,264 of Idaho’s share of the settlement will be deposited into the state’s general account for appropriation by the legislature. The additional $329,264 payment is intended to reimburse taxpayers for unnecessary expenses of the Idaho Medicaid program as a result of Pfizer’s illegal activity and will be provided to the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare, Division of Medicaid, to comply with federal law.

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