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Attorney General Sorrell Announces Pfizer Inc. To Pay Vermont $1.3 Million In Historic Settlements

CONTACT: Linda A. Purdy, Christy Mihaly, Assistant Attorney General, (802) 241-4442, (802) 828-5479

September 2, 2009: Vermont has joined in the largest health care fraud settlement in history, Attorney General William H. Sorrell announced today. The agreement resolves federal and state civil and criminal investigations into allegations that drug manufacturer Pfizer Inc. and its subsidiaries paid kickbacks and engaged in off-labeling marketing campaigns improperly promoting Pfizer drugs. “Our citizens and our businesses struggle to obtain prescription drugs at a price they can afford. It is outrageous that huge pharmaceutical companies make money by illegal – even criminal – activities,” said Attorney General Sorrell.

In a national $1 billion settlement, Pfizer, the largest pharmaceutical manufacturer in the world, will pay Vermont more than $876,000 in civil damages and penalties to compensate the state Medicaid program for damages caused by their improper promotion of drugs for uses not approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). While it is not illegal for a physician to prescribe a drug for an unapproved use, federal law prohibits a manufacturer from promoting a drug for uses not approved by the FDA. Pfizer is also alleged to have made illegal payments to health care professionals to induce them to prescribe Pfizer drugs, including Bextra, Lyrica, Zyvox, Celebrex, Lipitor, Viagra, and Zoloft.

In a separate $33 million multi-state settlement also announced today, Vermont will receive another $432,000 to settle state consumer protection claims that Pfizer engaged in false, misleading and deceptive conduct in promoting the antipsychotic prescription drug Geodon. The settlement also requires Pfizer to change how it markets Geodon, and prohibits the company from promoting Geodon for unapproved uses.

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, for illegal marketing and promotion of Bextra, an anti-inflammatory drug that Pfizer pulled from the market in 2005. Pharmacia & Upjohn Company, Inc. agreed to plead guilty for misbranding the drug with the intent to defraud or mislead.

Click here for the Complaint for Injunctive and Other Relief and click here for the Stipulated Judgment/Consent Judgment.

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