Blue Cross of Texas sues Pfizer over off-label marketing of Lyrica

Michelle Massey, East Texas Bureau Jul. 13, 2010, 10:00am

MARSHALL-Alleging deceptive marketing practices and falsely inflating demand, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Texas has filed a lawsuit against the manufacturer of three popular medications.

Health Care Service Corp., a mutual legal reserve company, filed suit against Pfizer, Pharmacia & Upjohn, Efren Olivares and Rick Burch on July 2 in the Marshall Division of the Eastern District of Texas.

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Texas is a division of Health Care Service Corp. and is accusing the drug manufacturers of illegal marketing and deceptive sales practices.

The drugs in question are Zyvox, a synthetic antibacterial agent; Geodon an anti-psychotic drug; and Lyrica, an anti-epileptic drug. The suit alleges Pfizer heavily marketed the drugs for use in off-label conditions.

"Defendants' deceptive marketing practices and other improper conduct violated federal and state law and caused health plans to reimburse for prescriptions that Defendants knew had not been approved by the FDA," the lawsuit states.

"Defendants' improper conduct caused HCSC to pay for an inflated number of participants' prescriptions, and other related health costs, for Geodon, Lyrica, and Zyvox as well as other associated health costs."

Defendant Efren Olivares was the national head of Geodon marketing. Defendant Rick Burch was a senior vice president at Pfizer who led the Arthritis, Pain and Metabolics Division.

Defendant Pharmacia & Upjohn was purchased by Pfizer in 2003.

HCSC accuses the defendants of racketeering, employing deceptive marketing strategies including off-label marketing, dissemination of misleading information regarding the respective drug's safety and efficacy and payment of illegal kickbacks to health care professionals to induce them to promote and prescribe these drugs.

The plaintiff accuses the defendants of violating the Illinois Consumer Protection Act, unjust enrichment, common law fraud, negligence and negligence per se and conspiracy.

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

Dallas attorneys John B. Scott and Andrew W. Yung of Scott Yung LLP is representing the plaintiff.

U.S. District Judge David Folsom is assigned to the case.

Case No. 2:10cv00221

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