Blue Cross sues Pfizer over deceptive marketing of Lyrica, others

Michelle Massey, East Texas Bureau Jun. 16, 2010, 5:00am

MARSHALL-Insurer Blue Cross Blue Shield is accusing pharmaceutical company Pfizer and several of its executives of deceptive sales and marketing of three of its most successful drugs.

Health Care Service Corp., operating through its divisions of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Texas, Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Mexico and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Oklahoma, filed suit against Mark Brown, Rich Burch, Jake Friedman, Matthew Lustig, Pharmacia & Upjohn and Pfizer.

The lawsuit was filed June 4 in the Marshall Division of the Eastern District of Texas.

HSCS accuses the defendants of racketeering, employing deceptive marketing strategies including off-label marketing, dissemination of misleading information and the safety and efficacy of the anti-inflammatory drug Bextra, the anti-psychotic Geodon and anti-seizure medication Lyrica.

"Furthermore, this improper conduct caused HCSC to pay for participants' prescriptions for these drugs and often in lieu of paying for cheaper, yet equally effective, drugs," the complaint states.

The plaintiff also alleges Pfizer paid illegal kickbacks to health care professionals to induce them to promote and prescribe these drugs.

Blue Cross Blue Shield claims it has paid for millions of dollars of the improperly marketed and sold drugs at issue and HCSC has suffered damages as a result of defendants' illegal and wrongful conduct, the complaint states.

Defendants Brown, Burch, Friedman and Lustig are or were executives with Pfizer. Defendant Pharmacia & Upjohn were acquired by Pfizer.

The plaintiff accuses the defendants of common law fraud, deceptive trade practices, unjust enrichment, negligence and negligence per se and violations of federal and state regulations.

According to court records, Pharmacia & Upjohn has pleaded guilty to felony violations of the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act for misbranding Bextra and has agreed to pay a total criminal restitution of $1.3 billion.

Pfizer has paid more than $1 billion to settle civil litigations regarding fraudulent marketing and promoting of multiple drugs including Bextra, Geodon and Lyrica.

However the plaintiff claims it has not received any compensation for the deceptive practices.

Health Care Service is seeking compensatory, punitive and treble damages, damages for unjust enrichment, interest, costs and expenses, and attorney's fees.

Dallas attorney Andrew W. Yung of Scott Yung LLP. is representing the plaintiff.

U.S. District Judge T. John Ward is assigned to the case.

Case No. 2:10cv00189

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