Linda Shearer, of Berkshire County, Massachusetts, brought the Neurontin suicide lawsuit against Pfizer after her husband, Hartley Shearer, died in 2002. Shearer’s lawsuit alleged that Pfizer’s Warner-Lambert subsidiary failed to properly warn patients and doctors about the increased risk of suicide from Neurontin side effects.
While details of the Neurontin settlement remain confidential, Bloomberg News reports that the Pfizer agreed to pay about $400,000. Trial in the case was already underway in the U.S. District Court in Boston when the deal was reached.
Neurontin (gabapentin) is an epilepsy medication approved by the FDA in 1983, which generated $387 million in sales for Pfizer in 2008.
There are currently about 1,200 Neurontin lawsuits pending against Pfizer, most of which have been brought by plaintiffs who say that Neurontin increased the risk of suicide. In 2008, the FDA required Neurontin and similar epilepsy drugs to begin carrying label warnings alerting users to the risk of suicidal thoughts. All federal lawsuits over Neurontin have been consolidated before U.S. District Judge Patti B. Saris.
The Shearer settlement came just days after another federal jury in Boston found Pfizer of guilty of illegally promoting Neurontin for off-label uses, and hit Pfizer with $142 million in damages in a case brought by the Kaiser Foundation Health Plan Inc., a subsidiary of Kaiser Permanente. Shearer’s lawsuit also claimed the company had promoted the drug for off-label uses in her lawsuit.
While doctors are free to prescribe drugs for uses not approved by the FDA, manufacturers are prohibited from marketing the drugs for such uses that they have not established are safe and effective.
In 2004, Parke-Davis, a division of Warner-Lambert that was acquired by Pfizer, paid $430 million to the U.S. Justice Department over claims that they were illegally promoting Neurontin for off-label uses, including control of mood swings. Last fall, Pfizer paid the Justice Department $2.3 billion to settle a number of off-label marketing claims which included its marketing of Neurontin.