Processing Magazine

Feds Join Pfizer Whistleblower Suit

September 22, 2010

The New York Times reports, the Justice Department has joined a whistleblower lawsuit against Pfizer and its subsidiary Wyeth Pharmaceuticals that accuses Wyeth of illegal off-label marketing of Rapamune, a drug used to prevent rejection of kidney transplants. Ray Kerins, a Pfizer spokesman, said the company had previously disclosed that it was cooperating with a government review of Wyeth’s promotional practices involving Rapamune. Pfizer also disclosed in February that there was a criminal investigation into the marketing. In a statement, the company said the whistle-blower suit was filed in 2005, four years before Pfizer bought Wyeth for $68 billion. Pfizer could be in violation of a corporate integrity agreement it signed a year ago in a separate case if it was involved in further illegal sales. Rapamune had sales of $376 million in 2008. The law allows the government to collect up to three times any amount it was defrauded and pay whistle-blowers 15 to 25 percent of the total. While doctors can use an approved drug for anything they see fit, companies are prohibited from marketing drugs for uses not approved by the F.D.A. In the whistle-blower suit, filed in United States District Court in Philadelphia, the former employees, Marlene Sandler and Scott Paris, said they were encouraged to promote the drug for heart, lung, liver and pancreas transplants, even though the F.D.A. had only approved it, in 1999, for kidney transplants.