COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) – South Carolina is to receive $11 million under an agreement with Pfizer Inc. over the company’s disputed sales tactics for certain drugs, double the amount the state would have gotten under a multistate deal struck last year.
Under the deal finalized Thursday and confirmed by Pfizer, the New York-based pharmaceutical giant also is to give South Carolina more than $1.5 million in medications for use in its free clinics.
In September, federal prosecutors hit Pfizer with $2.3 billion in fines over what they called the improper promotion of drugs – including painkiller Bextra and the schizophrenia medicine Geodon – that included plying doctors with free golf, massages, and resort junkets.
Use of drugs for so-called “off-label” medical conditions is not uncommon, but manufacturers are prohibited from marketing drugs for uses that have not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. Prosecutors said junkets and other company-paid perks were designed to promote the drugs to doctors for unapproved uses and dosages, backed by false and misleading claims about safety and effectiveness.
Bextra, for instance, was approved for arthritis, but prosecutors had said Pfizer promoted it for acute pain, and in dosages above the approved maximum. In 2005, Bextra was pulled from the U.S. market amid mounting evidence it raised the risk of heart attack, stroke and death.
In addition to a $1.2 billion criminal fine, the company also agreed to pay $1 billion in civil penalties, the Justice Department said in September. Of that amount, $331 million was to be split among 49 states and the District of Columbia.
South Carolina Attorney General Henry McMaster – who is seeking his state’s Republican nomination for governor – sparked controversy when that deal was announced, saying he had opted out of the multistate agreement to pursue his own case against Pfizer to seek a better deal for the state.
That gamble seems to have paid off.
McMaster spokesman Mark Plowden says the state would have gotten about $5.5 million if it had participated in the multistate deal, according to a formula set by the court system.
In a statement, Pfizer acknowledged no wrongdoing and said it was pleased with the deal.
Under the individual agreement, South Carolina is getting a combined $12.68 million in money and prescription drugs. Plowden said the deal has been a year in the making.
“We said South Carolina would do better, and we did,” Plowden said Friday.
It will take South Carolina about a month to receive the money, which Plowden said will go to the state’s Medicaid coffers and state health care plan.
Date: April 5, 2010
Source: Associated Press