Connecticut Attorney General's Office

Press Release

Attorney General, CSA, DSS, DCP Announce State To Receive Almost $5 Million From Pfizer In Record-Setting National Settlement

September 2, 2009

Attorney General Richard Blumenthal and Chief State's Attorney Kevin T. Kane today announced that Pfizer will pay the state almost $5 million as part of an historic $2.3 billion nationwide agreement settling civil and criminal allegations that the company used illegal marketing and kickbacks to defraud state and federal healthcare programs.

Blumenthal and Kane participated in the settlement also representing Department of Social Services (DSS) Commissioner Michael P. Starkowski and Department of Consumer Protection (DCP) Commissioner Jerry Farrell, Jr.

Pfizer is accused of marketing drugs for unapproved uses in violation of Food and Drug Administration (FDA) rules and paying kickbacks to doctors to promote and prescribe certain medications. The allegations involved 13 Pfizer drugs, including Bextra, Geodon, Lyrica, Viagra, Lipitor and Zoloft.

Blumenthal said, "This record-setting, multi-billion dollar healthcare fraud settlement -- the highest in history -- sends the drug industry a commanding message: heal thyself or be brought to heel. The criminal felony plea and huge penalty are a bitter pill for Pfizer, but a critical cure for its fraud against taxpayers. Sick, slick, deceptive drug marketing must be met with strong medicine.

"Overreaching, underhanded sales tactics betrayed Pfizer's trust and heritage. The company aggressively promoted drugs for unapproved, off label uses, bribed medical professionals with cash and gifts and used thinly disguised kickbacks to hawk its products. Its false and fraudulent claims to Connecticut's Medicaid cost taxpayers millions -- involving some of its popular products like Bextra, Lipitor, Zoloft and Viagra.

"Pfizer's drug-pushing tactics put profits ahead of patients. The company's kickbacks endangered patients rather than enhancing healthcare. Taxpayers, patients, medical professionals and consumers all should be outraged and appalled. Such illegal and unethical marketing is unworthy of a highly competent corporate citizen with dedicated staff and scientists," Blumenthal added.

Kane said, "Now more than ever, in these difficult economic times, it is critical that we assure that government gets the most from every tax dollar. I commend the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit in the Office of the Chief State's Attorney and the Office of the Attorney General for their outstanding work to combat fraud and abuse and to recover taxpayer dollars."

Starkowski said, "This major settlement, expected to net about $4.3 million for Connecticut, further indicates the need to safeguard public health programs from excess costs and inappropriate practice. Besides the federal government, we acknowledge the cooperation between the Attorney General's Office, the Chief State's Attorney's Office and DSS Quality Assurance staff in determining the impact of this settlement on Connecticut."

Federal and state authorities alleged that Pfizer:

  • Marketed the anti-inflammatory medication Bextra for conditions and dosages other than those for which it was approved, a violation of FDA rules;

  • Promoted the antipsychotic drug Geodon for unapproved uses including to treat attention deficit disorder, autism, dementia and depression for patients that included children and adolescents;

  • Sold the pain medication Lyrica for unapproved conditions;

  • Made false representations about the safety and efficacy of Zyvox, an antibiotic only approved to treat certain drug resistant infections.

Pfizer also allegedly paid kickbacks to health care professionals to induce them to promote and prescribe Bextra, Geodon, Lyrica, Zyvox, Aricept, Celebrex, Lipitor, Norvasc, Relpax, Viagra, Zithromax, Zoloft and Zyrtec. These illegal payments allegedly took many forms, including entertainment, cash, travel and meals. Federal law prohibits payment of anything of value in exchange for the prescribing of a product paid for by a federal health care program.

Under the settlement, Pfizer will enter into a Corporate Integrity Agreement with the United States Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Inspector General, subjecting the company to close monitoring of its marketing and sales practices.

Of the $2.3 billion paid by Pfizer, $1 billion is civil penalties and restitution to the states and the federal government, while the remaining $1.3 billion is a criminal fine and forfeiture. The settlement is the largest of its kind in American history.

Connecticut's Medicaid program will receive a total of $8.7 million, but half will go to the federal government to cover its share of the state's Medicaid costs. The state will retain $4.3 million. In addition, it will receive $614,000 from a separate multistate settlement with Pfizer covering alleged violation of consumer protection laws in the marketing of Geodon for unapproved uses, bringing the state's total to $4.9 million.