Documents from a suit in Boston’s US District Court show that Pfizer executives suppressed the results of a 1999 European trial showing their drug Neurontin didn’t work for chronic nerve pain at the same time they promoted the drug for that purpose.
Pfizer’s Neurontin marketing campaign transformed a low-impact epilepsy drug into a $2 billion per year blockbuster before generic versions became available in 2004.
Referring to the European trial by its code number in September, 2000, Pfizer marketing executive John Marino wrote, “We must delay publication of 224, as its results were not positive.”
Later that month, Neurontin team leader Michael Rowbotham worried about a 224 investigator who was pressing Pfizer to publish his findings. “It will be…important how WE write up the study,” Rowbotham wrote. “We are not allowing (the investigator) to write it up himself.”
Results of that trial never did see the light of day.
Meanwhile in 2000-01, Pfizer spent millions marketing Neurontin for neuropathic pain to physicians at dinners, in hospitals and in medical education conferences. Neurontin prescriptions for neuropathic pain almost doubled during that time.
In the Boston case, insurers and Neurontin users are suing the pharmaceutical giant for unjust enrichment and consumer fraud.
Pfizer denied all charges in a statement released yesterday.