A division of Pfizer Inc., the world’s largest drugmaker, has agreed to plead
guilty to two felonies and pay $430 million in penalties to settle charges that
it fraudulently promoted the drug Neurontin for a string of unapproved uses.
In an agreement announced by government prosecutors Thursday, Pfizer unit
Warner-Lambert admitted that it aggressively marketed the epilepsy drug by
illicit means for unrelated conditions including bipolar disorder, pain,
migraine headaches, and drug and alcohol withdrawal.
A company whistle-blower, whose 1996 civil suit spurred
government investigations of Neurontin’s marketing campaign, will receive about
$26.6 million through the settlement under legal provisions that reward citizens
for helping to recover government money obtained by fraud.
The settlement includes $152 million to pay back amounts spent on Neurontin
by the federal Medicare program and 50 state Medicaid programs for the poor. In
addition, Pfizer will pay a $240 million criminal fine, the second-largest such
fine ever imposed in a health care fraud prosecution, the Department of Justice