September 2, 2009

Pfizer to pay record fine for Bextra fraud

The U.S. Department of Justice said pharmaceutical giant Pfizer will pay a record $2.3 billion fine to settle fraudulent marketing of the painkiller Bextra.

Bextra was pulled off the market in 2005. The case settled Wednesday involved Pfizer's marketing of the drug for uses not approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

A company must specify the intended use of a product, the Department of Health and Human Services said in a release. Once approved, the drug may not be marketed or promoted for so-called off label uses.

The settlement includes a $1.3 billion fine involving the marketing of Bextra and a $1 billion fine related to marketing Geodon, an anti-psychotic medication, Zyvox, an antibiotic and Lyric, an anti-epileptic drug.

A $105 million fine was levied on Phamacia & Upjohn. In total, the fines are the largest criminal fine ever imposed in the United States for any matter.

This historic settlement will return nearly $1 billion to Medicare, Medicaid, and other government insurance programs, securing their future for the Americans who depend on these programs, said Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services.