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Pfizer Faces Off-Label Suit

Several unions and health insurance companies filed suit against New York-based Pfizer on March 28, claiming the company's off-label promotion of its blockbuster drug Lipitor caused them to pay billions of dollars in unwarranted Lipitor prescriptions over the past five years.

The Welfare Fund of Teamsters Local Union 836 filed the class action suit in a New Jersey federal court. Other plaintiffs from New York, Pennsylvania, Florida, Illinois, Ohio and Indiana are expected to join the suit, according to lead plaintiffs' counsel, Jay Eisenhofer of Grant & Eisenhofer.

According to the complaint, "a significant portion of Lipitor's sales" flows from improper off-label marketing tactics that breach federal guidelines for treating high cholesterol. Pfizer's campaign has made Lipitor the best selling drug in the U.S.--garnering $12 billion in sales in 2005.

In addition to charging Pfizer with fraud, violation of state consumer protection statutes and other state laws, plaintiffs assert claims under the federal RICO statute.

"This is a classic case of unjust enrichment," Eisenhofer said in a statement. "Pfizer has built colossal sales of Lipitor through the pipeline of third-party payors such as our clients and countless other drug plans--including Medicaid and Medicare--much of it based on prescriptions that the FDA's guidelines say never should have been written in the first place."

Staff Writer

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