In the largest health care fraud settlement in history, pharmaceutical giant Pfizer must pay $2.3 billion to resolve criminal and civil allegations that the company illegally promoted uses of four of its drugs, including the painkiller Bextra. The other drugs were the antipsychotic Geodon, the antibiotic Zyvox, and the anti-epileptic Lyrica.
Once the Food and Drug Administration approves drugs, doctors can prescribe them off-label for any use, but makers can't market them for anything other than approved uses. Pfizer subsidiary Pharmacia & Upjohn pleaded guilty to a felony violation for promoting off-label uses of Bextra. At the FDA's request, Pfizer pulled Bextra off the market in April 2005 because of its risks.
In a statement, Pfizer senior vice president and general counsel Amy Schulman said, "We regret certain actions taken in the past, but are proud of the action we've taken to strengthen our internal controls and pioneer new procedures."