SCOTUS Leaves Intact $142M Verdict Against Pfizer


The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday left intact a $142 million jury verdict against Pfizer Inc over the company's marketing of the epilepsy drug Neurontin.

In 2010, a jury in Massachusetts found that due to Pfizer's marketing of the drug for off-label uses, Kaiser Foundation Health Plan Inc, one of the nation's largest health maintenance organizations, and affiliates were damaged because they paid for prescriptions relating to conditions Neurontin did not effectively treat.

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The Supreme Court's refusal to hear Pfizer's appeal means similar claims brought against the company by insurer Aetna Inc and Harden Manufacturing Corp can also go forward.

Pfizer asked the high court to weigh whether lower courts correctly concluded that the company could be held liable under federal racketeering law. Pfizer said the claims made under the Racketeer Influence and Corrupt Organizations Act, known as RICO, did not make a sufficient connection between the alleged inaccurate marketing and the increase in what Kaiser had to pay out for prescriptions.

In an April ruling, the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the jury verdict, finding that Pfizer should cover costs for the marketing and prescribing of Neurontin for unapproved uses, a practice that has also earned the company a hefty criminal fine.

In the related cases, the appeals court revived similar claims made by Aetna and a class-action suit filed by Harden.

The jury in Massachusetts found that Pfizer had marketed Neurontin for bipolar disorder, migraines and neuropathic pain, none of which had been approved by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration.

The verdict followed a $240 million criminal fine in 2004 paid by Pfizer's Warner-Lambert unit, as well as a $190 million civil fine paid by Pfizer in connection with the off-label marketing.

Neurontin, developed by a Warner-Lambert unit, was approved in 1993 to treat seizures at a maximum dose of 1,800 milligrams per day. Warner-Lambert was later acquired by Pfizer.

The case is Pfizer Inc. v. Kaiser Foundation Health Plan Inc, U.S. Supreme Court, No. 13-289.