Company Files Whistleblower Lawsuit Against Lipitor Manufacturer, Pfizer Inc
Health Support Awareness Inc has filed a whistleblower lawsuit against Pfizer Inc, the manufacturer behind controversial statin drug Lipitor.
In their whistleblower lawsuit, Health Support Awareness accuses Pfizer of misbranding and promoting Lipitor for off-label uses that led customers and doctors to defraud Medicare and Medicaid, as well as other insurance companies. The lawsuit was unsealed in a Massachusetts court on Friday, January 10th.
Health Support Awareness claimed in their suit that Pfizer’s misinformation campaign kept prices for Lipitor high, leading to the company cheating the government out of billions of dollars between 2007 and 2010. In those years, the lawsuit claims, 43% of Medicare patients were on some brand of statin to control their high blood pressure, and in the year 2010 alone, Medicare spent $6.7 billion on statins for patients.
“The damage caused by Pfizer’s misleading marketing campaign and its manipulation of patient information for Lipitor has cost government-sponsored health care programs and consumers billions of dollars over the last decade,” the complaint said. “Pfizer’s aggressive attitude to increase sales and market share resulted in unprecedented profits at the expense of the entire health care system.”
Pfizer not only spent “tens of millions of dollars” on television ads to market Lipitor to potential consumers – leading patients to ask their doctors for Lipitor prescriptions specifically – but the company also pushed for recommended cholesterol levels to be lowered so doctors would prescribe Lipitor to their patients sooner.
As the Lipitor patent reached its expiration date, the complaint alleges that Pfizer also struck deals with two generic drug manufacturers, Ranbaxy and Watson Pharmaceuticals, so that about 70% of the generic manufacturers’ profits went to Pfizer when generic versions of Lipitor were released.
Further allegations suggest that Pfizer increased the price of Lipitor while increasing their subsidy of the drug, so that patients would experience the drug as less expensive, while Medicare and Medicaid paid more to the company. The FDA even sent warning letters to Pfizer’s Lipitor marketing group between 1998 and 2011, because the pharmaceutical company repeatedly overstated Lipitor’s effectiveness in its advertising.
Finally, the complaint alleges that, when the Journal of Managed Care therapy suggested that Lipitor pills could be split in half so that patients could save money on their prescriptions, Pfizer insisted that consumers could not safely split their pills, while simultaneously pushing doctors to prescribe the highest possible dose of Lipitor. This practice alone cost Medicare an estimated $1.4 billion each year that Lipitor was on the market.
Health Support Awareness seeks treble damages and civil penalties on behalf of the United States government “in connection with the systematic misbranding and illegal marketing by Pfizer.” So far, however, the federal government has declined to intervene.
Pfizer released a statement saying that the whistleblower lawsuit is “without merit.”
“Lipitor has been prescribed for over 15 years to lower the risk for heart attack and stroke in patients with heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and certain other risk factors. Lipitor’s FDA-approved label provides physicians with accurate and science-based information on the medicine’s benefits and risks,” Pfizer’s spokesman said.
Meanwhile, several personal injury lawsuits against Pfizer’s Lipitor seek grouping in a multidistrict litigation (MDL) because they feature similar complaints of long-lasting side effects, including patients developing Type 2 diabetes caused by their Lipitor prescription.
The Strom Law Firm Is Now Investigating Lipitor Cases
Although many doctors believe that the benefits of statins such as Lipitor outweigh the risks, patients who are otherwise healthy disagree. Type 2 diabetes carries the risk of a wide variety of different side effects, including increased risk of heart and blood vessel disease, nerve damage or neuropathy, kidney damage, osteoporosis, Alzheimer’s disease, skin and mouth conditions, and diabetic macular edema, which can lead to blindness.
The attorneys at the Strom Law Firm are currently investigating claims that taking Lipitor is related to development of Type 2 diabetes. There may be a limited time to file a claim, so contact us today for a free consultation. 803.252.4800