N.H. to get a share of Pfizer settlement

New Hampshire will receive more than $475,000 as its share of the $2.3 billion penalty imposed Wednesday by the federal government on pharmaceutical giant Pfizer Inc.

On Wednesday, the U.S Justice Department dealt a heavy blow to the New York-based drug maker and its subsidiary, Pharmacia & Upjohn Company Inc., imposing $1.2 billion in criminal fines, $1 billion in civil penalties and $100 million in criminal forfeiture — the largest-ever fine in any U.S. health-care fraud case. The company was cited for felony violation of promoting some of its drugs for “off-label” uses, which are any use of the drug not specified in an application and approved by the Food & Drug Administration.

Some of the penalty will be distributed among the 50 states. New Hampshire’s share will be $476,263, the attorney general’s office told NHBR.

According to a press release from the U.S. Justice Department, Pharmacia & Upjohn Company pleaded guilty to a felony violation of the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act for misbranding Bextra, its anti-inflammatory drug, with the intent to defraud or mislead. The company marketed several uses and dosages that the FDA specifically declined to approve due to safety concerns.

Bextra, along with Vioxx (made by Merck & Co.), were types of anti-inflammatory drugs often used for arthritis, called COX-2 inhibitors, and were pulled from the market by the FDA in 2005. Pfizer’s other COX-2 inhibitor, Celebrex, remains on the market with warnings about serious cardiac risks.

Pfizer’s $1 billion civil penalty is to resolve civil allegations of illegally promoting three other drugs in addition to Bextra drugs — Geodon, an anti-psychotic drug; Zyvox, an antibiotic; and Lyrica, an anti-epileptic drug. — CINDY KIBBE/NEW HAMPSHIRE BUSINESS REVIEW