Pfizer Turns Failure into Success

"Documents and emails released this week ... suggest Pfizer's marketers influenced" research on the drug Neurontin "by declining to release or altering the conclusions of studies that found no beneficial effect from Neurontin for various off-label conditions," reports Keith Winstein. The Food and Drug Administration approved Neurontin for epilepsy and shingles. In 2004, Pfizer's Warner-Lambert unit admitted to promoting "off-label" uses. Companies can't promote drugs for unapproved uses, though doctors can prescribe off-label. Pfizer paid $430 million for the offense and claimed it ensured "there was no improper marketing after it purchased Warner-Lambert in 2000." But the new documents, which were submitted in a lawsuit against Pfizer, detail more recent attempts to boost off-label sales. After one study showed Neurontin didn't lessen diabetic nerve pain, a marketer suggested "delaying the publication for as long as possible." One researcher emailed that she was told "not to publish anything that damages Neurontin's marketing success." Pfizer also failed to publish results that Neurontin didn't ease post-operative nerve pain. Lastly, after the drug was shown to have no effect on bipolar disorder, a Pfizer consultant writing up the study excluded 16 patients and changed how other patients were characterized, thus "turning a failure into a success."