Federal Jury: Pfizer Violated US Racketeering Laws In Marketing Neurontin;Ordered To Pay $142 Million

Whether it’s Big Finance, Big Insurance, Big Tobacco or Big Pharma, overall, Big Business never seems to “get it” when it comes to acting ethically and obeying the laws they’re required to operate under in this country. This time the focus is on Big Pharma, though that’s nothing new.

Pfizer, Inc., that giant of the pharmaceutical industry, was found by a jury in U.S. District Court in Boston last week, with violating the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act (RICO,) a law designed to thwart and punish a variety of illegal activities dealing with financial transactions. Oddly enough, (or not so oddly,) RICO was first passed by the U.S. Congress in response to organized crime’s (read: The mob’s) activities in transferring and hiding financial transactions across state lines. Now, Pfizer’s been found to have violated the Act.

What was Pfizer up to? It seems that for the past ten years, Pfizer embarked on a targeted campaign to promote their epilepsy drug, Neurontin, for officially unapproved uses. Kaiser Foundation Health Plans, Inc., and Kaiser Foundation Hospitals, alleged that over the course of ten years, Pfizer consistently promoted Neurontin to it for unapproved uses, representing to its doctors that Neurontin could effectively treat a number of different medical conditions, including migraines and bipolar disorder. Neurontin was approved by the FDA in 1993 to treat epilepsy, and nothing more. According to Tom Sobol, a lawyer for Kaiser ,”The jury found that Pfizer engaged in a racketeering conspiracy over a ten-year period. That bodes well for future (similar) cases.” The jury deliberated for two days before finding Pfizer guilty of violating RICO. They determined the damages owed Kaiser to be $47 million, but under RICO, the damages are tripled. Hence, the total cost to Pfizer is $142 million. The federal trial was based in Boston, as U.S. District Court Judge Patti Saris is charged with overseeing a number of federal lawsuits from across the United States, targeting Pfizer with personal injury claims and allegations of fraudulent marketing of this drug. These injury claims would take the form of Product Liability suits, rather than Medical Malpractice.

When will Big Business get it? When will they cease their relentless quest for profits, no matter what the cost to society at large, or to themselves? Do they never learn from the shameless corporate fools that went before them? The terms “Ford Pinto”, “Asbestosis”, “Predatory Mortgages”, “Tobacco Cancer” and “Corporate Greed” all ring loudly. Does it not shame the leadership of this global company that they have been found guilty under a statute originally passed to police and defeat organized crime?

And remember, readers:: It’s these very kinds of companies and industries that want “tort reform” — Big Business. They’d just love to shrink your legal rights and expand their profits. Don’t let them do it.