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Pfizer Settles Wrongful Death Suit for $400,000

Pharmaceutical giant Pfizer is looking at upwards of 1,000 lawsuits alleging illegal promotional activities surrounding the drug Neurontin. Plaintiffs have accused Pfizer of "off-label" marketing in their promotion of Neurontin, an epilepsy drug, for things like pain relief.

The drug is also known to cause depression and suicidal thoughts in some who take it.

While Pfizer denies any misdeeds in its promotion of Neurontin, they have paid out damages in several cases related to the drug. Last week, they settled before trial for $400,000 with the family of Richard Smith, a former pastor, who became depressed and committed suicide after taking the medication.

Smith's doctor had prescribed him Neurontin as a pain reliever, which is not within the official capacity of the drug. While doctors are allowed to prescribe medication outside of its common scope, pharmaceutical companies are not allowed to promote such use.

It was not the only wrongful death lawsuit facing the drug giant.

Neurontin is produced by Warner-Lambert, a Pfizer subsidiary purchased in 2000. In 2004, Warner-Lambert pled guilty to charges that they had illegally marketed the drug, paying more than $400 million in fines.

The criminal charges against Warner-Lambert followed admissions by a former medical liaison who claimed that the company had trained employees to promote Neurontin for a number of "off-label" uses. The medical liaison later won a $25 million whistleblower suit against Warner-Lambert.

Even after settling in the Smith case, Pfizer has continued to deny responsibility and any sort of engagement in deceptive marketing practices.

Related Resource

  • Pfizer Settles Neurontin Suit Over Minister's Death (Businessweek)

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