Verdict of $142.1M in Lawsuit Over Neurontin Upheld by Judge

A federal judge has upheld a Neurontin lawsuit verdict returned last year, in which a jury awarded $47 million against Pfizer for illegally promoting its epilepsy drug, and the judge confirmed that the award will be tripled to $142 million due to provisions governing U.S. racketeering laws. 

On January 27, U.S. District Judge Patti Saris affirmed a Boston jury’s decision in favor of Kaiser Foundation Health Plan Inc., and Kaiser Foundation Hospitals, who charged Pfizer with illegal promotion of Neurontin for migraines, bipolar disorder and other conditions. The plaintiffs alleged that they were forced to overpay $90 million for the drug, which they say did not perform as Pfizer led them to believe.

While Judge Saris approved the $47.36 million verdict issued in March, she also confirmed that the final award would be $142.1 million, because the violations go against the U.S. Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act, a 1970 law designed to counter organized crime, which requires that such penalties be tripled. Judge Saris rejected a bid by the Kaiser organizations to add $76 million in interest to the award.

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Pfizer officials said they were pleased that the motion to add interest to the reward was rejected, and said they intend to appeal the original jury decision.

The case is just one of about 1,200 lawsuits over Neurontin that Pfizer is facing. Most of the complaints have been brought by individual plaintiffs who say that Neurontin side effects increase 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 of the federal lawsuits have been consolidated before Judge Saris as part of a Neurontin multidistrict litigation (MDL).

Neurontin (gabapentin) is an epilepsy medication approved by the FDA in 1983, which generated $387 million in sales for Pfizer in 2008.

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. In 2009, Pfizer paid the Justice Department $2.3 billion to settle a number of off-label marketing claims which included its marketing of Neurontin.

2 Comments

  • peteMay 16, 2011 at 4:05 pm

    when is enough is enough does this drug work or does it just wants you to end it all not even approved for nerve damage by the fda and why do doctors still prescribe it to me its the drugs messing me up gabapentin/neurontin boo to you need help

  • Oma FayeApril 28, 2011 at 9:38 pm

    I have been on Neurontin 3,600 mg per day for many years. My Doctor at Kaiser took me off cold turkey. I went through hell. Saw another Dr. at Kaiser and he is weaning me off over three weeks on a much smaller dose. I know Kaiser was awarded a large sum of money. Is their a class action suit against Kaiser and the maker of this drug?

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