US appeals court upholds $142.1 million award against Pfizer over Neurontin marketing

The US Court of Appeals in Boston upheld an earlier ruling under which Pfizer was ordered to pay $142.1 million to Kaiser Foundation Health Plan and Kaiser Foundation Hospitals for improperly marketing its epilepsy drug Neurontin. Pfizer spokesman Chris Loder said the company "continues to believe there was no basis in fact or law" for the verdict.

The ruling upholds a lower court's decision not to grant Pfizer a new trial in the case after a jury found that the drugmaker marketed Neurontin for uses not approved by the FDA, including bipolar disorder, migraines and neuropathic pain. "We reject the argument" that Kaiser’s lawyers didn’t produce sufficient evidence to uphold the jury verdict, the appeals court said. In 2004, Pfizer’s Warner-Lambert unit pled guilty to criminal charges filed by the US Department of Justice and agreed to pay $430 million to resolve allegations over the company’s marketing of Neurontin.

The Boston appeals court also determined that a district court judge had erred in refusing to allow third-party payers to combine their claims into a class-action status. District judge Patti Saris had previously denied the request, ruling that health insurers and union funds couldn’t show Pfizer’s actions caused their damages and therefore weren’t entitled to have a class-action case certified. However, the appeals court concluded that the plaintiffs had presented sufficient evidence to show Pfizer’s marketing of Neurontin caused their damages and sent the case back to Saris for reconsideration.

In response, Pfizer said it believed the lower court's dismissals were the right move and that it "disagrees with the conclusions" of the appeals court. "We are exploring our appellate options in all...of these cases," the company added.

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