Greene LLP Announces $325 Million Class Action Settlement with Pfizer Inc. on Claims of Fraudulent Marketing of Neurontin

Greene LLP is pleased to announce the resolution of a class action settlement with Pfizer Inc. and Warner-Lambert Company for $325 to resolve allegations of fraudulent marketing of the drug Neurontin. On November 10, 2014, Judge Saris of the Federal District Court of the District of Massachusetts granted final approval of the settlement, which was reached on behalf of third-party payors who paid for Neurontin prescriptions they alleged were worthless.

“I am gratified by this achievement,” said Thomas M. Greene, Chairman of the Plaintiffs Steering Committee. “After more than eighteen years of litigation, all of the briefing and investigative lawyering, I think this represents an excellent result for those harmed financially by the marketing of a worthless drug.”

The cases that came together as a putative class action were mostly filed in 2004. Greene’s 1996 False Claims Act suit on behalf of a whistleblower had made national news as the first to successfully allege that it was a False Claims Act violation for a pharmaceutical company to cause others to submit claims for off-label prescriptions. The False Claims Act suit was settled between Pfizer and the United States and several states in 2004 for $430 million in civil fines and criminal penalties.

Although the government had recovered for Neurontin prescriptions that were off label, private insurers had also been led to pay for the drug. The suits filed in 2004 alleged that Pfizer and its subsidiaries had distorted or omitted information about the drug’s effectiveness for bipolar disorder, migraine, neuropathic pain and other uses for which it was not approved by the FDA. Filed under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), the case required the plaintiffs to prove that the promotion had been fraudulent.

“What sets this case apart is not simply that it was the first of its kind,” said Greene. “What truly sets it apart was the investigative lawyering of my firm and others involved in the litigation, including the work done to dig into Pfizer’s internal research reports for its own clinical trials. What we found is that the company was practicing marketing-based medicine, not evidence-based medicine.”

Partway through the litigation, one payor was selected by Judge Saris for a bellwether trial to test for factual findings. Once the trial was complete, the judge, sitting as fact finder, determined that there was no evidence that Neurontin was more effective than a placebo for off-label uses. Nonetheless, the rest of the putative class faced an uphill battle, losing several motions for class certification before an appeal to the First Circuit Court of Appeals made it clear that they could in fact bring aggregate evidence as proof of causation and damages.

Greene LLP took the lead on the investigative lawyering in the first stages of the case and the briefing at the district court and appellate levels in the last few years of litigation, but there were several other key figures in the litigation from the Plaintiffs Steering Committee who also were invaluable in advancing the case. Thomas M. Sobol of Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro, Elizabeth Cabraser of Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein, and Don Barrett of Barrett Law Group played particularly prominent roles.

Also on November 10th, Judge Saris awarded a 28% attorneys’ fee for the class lawyers. “We are very pleased by the resolution of these claims,” said Greene. “Pursuing Pfizer and its predecessors for its marketing of Neurontin has dominated my time and energy for nearly twenty years, and I am satisfied that in the end, justice was served.”

Greene LLP is a complex civil litigation firm that specializes in representing qui tam whistleblowers in False Claims Act litigation and in large-scale health care industry cases.

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