The Wall Street Journal is reporting that pharmaceutical giant Pfizer are about to settle a legal case brought by the US Government over illegal promotion of their now withdrawn painkiller Bextra (valdecoxib) for a staggering $2.3 billion.
This follows the news that Eli Lilly have just settled a similar case against them for a previous record of $1.42 billion related to illegal promotion of their antipsychotic drug Zyprexa (olanzapine) with several cases against them still ongoing.
The cases relate to ‘off-label marketing’, an illegal practice where companies explicitly encourage doctors to prescribe drugs for conditions that the compound isn’t licensed for. In the case of olanzapine, this included dementia, and we now know the combination of antipsychotics and dementia greatly increases short and longer-term mortality.
The practice of off-label promotion is widespread and has been for years but this is the first time that such massive cases have been settled against the companies concerned.
As an aside, one of the most useful sources for news on the pharma industry and psychiatry is a blog we often link to called Furious Seasons.
It’s written by Phil Dawdy, an ex-newspaper journalist and ex-antipsychotic user who does some remarkable investigative journalism that is almost entirely supported by donations from readers of the website.
I mention this as he’s just had another experience of a journalist pumping him for information and then neglecting to mention him, despite the fact that he’s not only been on the pulse of developments for the last few years, he’s actually been part of the story as he publicly hosted some incriminating documents for the Zyprexa case.
He was recently flagged up as a great example of independent web journalism by respected science writer David Dobbs, but only seems to get credit from writers who already get self-publishing.
I don’t always agree with his take but find Furious Seasons essential reading nonetheless, which must be a sign of a good writer.
I credit him with having a sort of underground sensibility for sorting through the spin of corporate psychiatry but it won’t be long before he goes mainstream, so catch him while he’s still live and direct.