Drug maker Pfizer has agreed to pay $491 million to settle criminal and civil charges over the illegal marketing of its kidney-transplant drug Rapamune, according to the U.S. Justice Department. This settlement is only the latest in a series of big-money cases involving the sales practices of major pharmaceutical companies. Four years ago, Pfizer paid $2.3 billion for improperly marketing several drugs.
The recent case centers on the practices of Wyeth Pharmaceuticals, which Pfizer acquired in 2009. Rapamune is intended to prevent the body’s immune system from rejecting a transplanted organ. The drug was approved by the FDA in 1999 for use in patients receiving a kidney transplant. However, according to the Justice Department, Wyeth aggressively promoted the drug for use in patients receiving other organ transplants, even offering financial incentives to its sales force to do so.
The accusations began with a whistleblower lawsuit filed by former employees. The settlement announced Tuesday, which also resolves a second, similar whistle-blower suit, includes a criminal fine and forfeiture of $233.5 million, and a civil settlement of $257.4 million with the federal government, all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
Heygood, Orr & Pearson fighting Big Pharma
The lawyers at Heygood, Orr & Pearson have made it a career priority to hold drug manufacturers accountable and responsible for their actions. As a result, we have spent years holding drug companies and medical device manufacturers responsible for the injuries and deaths caused by their reckless conduct. We have represented hundreds of people regarding dangerous fentanyl pain patches, defective hip and knee implant devices, Yaz, Actos, Avandia and Accutane—to name just some examples.
Heygood, Orr & Pearson is AV-rated, the highest legal and ethical rating available from the leading law firm rating service. Our partners Michael Heygood, Jim Orr, and Eric Pearson are all Board Certified in Personal Injury Trial Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. Mr. Heygood and Mr. Orr are additionally Board Certified in Civil Trial Advocacy Law by the National Board of Trial Advocacy. Our partners been voted by their peers as “Super Lawyers” in the state of Texas for several years in a row.*
Whistleblower Lawsuits and the False Claims Act
Anyone who has information that a business or person has knowingly submitted or caused the submission of false or fraudulent claims to any branch of the United States government can potentially help file and pursue a lawsuit under the False Claims Act. The “whistleblower” (called a “relator”) does not have to have been personally harmed at all. The relator just needs to be aware of the false or fraudulent conduct. If money is recovered—whether from a settlement between the parties or a court judgment—the whistleblower who helped initiate the lawsuit can potentially recover 15 to 30% of the total amount recovered.
The government has recovered billions as a result of False Claims Act lawsuits, and hundreds of millions have been paid to the private whistleblowers that made the lawsuits possible. If you have questions about how to pursue a claim under the False Claims Act, please let us know. You can reach us by calling our toll-free hotline at 1-877-446-9001, or by filling out our free legal consultation form on this page.
* Michael Heygood, James Craig Orr, Jr. and Eric Pearson were selected to the Super Lawyers List, a Thomson Reuters publication, for the years 2003 through 2013.