Thirty-four state attorneys general, including Washington state, reached a $42.9 million settlement with Pfizer Inc. to resolve allegations that the company unlawfully promoted its drugs, Zyvox and Lyrica.
“Pfizer’s claims about Zyvox and Lyrica were not supported by scientific evidence,” said State Attorney General Rob McKenna.
The drug maker engaged in illegal marketing for Lyrica by encouraging its use for the treatment of pain conditions for which the drug is not approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Such promotion of drugs is called “off-label” marketing.
The attorneys general allege that Pfizer engaged in unfair and deceptive practices by making misleading and unsubstantiated claims about the drugs’ superiority to similar, better-known drugs. The FDA approved Zyvox to treat, among other conditions, pneumonia and skin infections caused by Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA). Pfizer promoted Zyvox as superior to Vancomycin, an effective and well-known MRSA drug. Lyrica is FDA-approved for seizure control and nerve pain in diabetics, among other illnesses. Pfizer marketed the drug as a more potent successor to Neurontin, another drug that has been used effectively for years.
A small portion of Washington state’s $1.3 million share of the settlement will be used to cover attorneys’ fees and costs associated with the investigation. The rest will be made available as grants to organizations set up to help those who suffer from diabetes.