Neurontin ‘Snake Oil’ Lawsuit Upheld

Neurontin ‘Snake Oil’ Lawsuit Upheld – National Pain Report

I have noticed that this drug is being extensively prescribed for all kinds of mood and pain disorders.  This is a systemically disruptive drug with insidious side-effects, yet it is often forced upon pain patients as a trial before more medications that are usually more effective are used.

The U.S. Supreme Court this week let stand a jury verdict that ordered Pfizer to pay $142 million to Kaiser Foundation Health for the illegal marketing of Neurontin, an anti-seizure drug that is widely prescribed off-label to treat fibromyalgia and migraines.

The cases stem from a 2004 settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice, in which Pfizer agreed to pay $430 million dollars in fines to resolve misdemeanor criminal and civil charges for the marketing of Neurontin, which is also known by its generic name, gabapentin.

After the settlement, Kaiser and other insurers sued Pfizer to recover the cost of Neurontin prescriptions they paid for, but were prescribed for conditions the drug did not effectively treat.

Neurontin was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 1993 to treat epileptic seizures and in 2002 to treat some types of neuropathic pain.

But the drug companies also promoted the drug for other uses through publications, medical seminars and in private communications with doctors.

more and more physicians prescribed it off-label to treat a wide variety of conditions, including bipolar disorder, depression, diabetic neuropathy, migraines and fibromyalgia

According to some estimates, over 90% of Neurontin sales are for off-label uses.

Neurontin’s popularity seemed to mystify some of Pfizer’s own executives. In a 1999 email under the subject heading “social phobia,” Christopher Wohlberg, who was then Pfizer’s executive medical director, wrote this:

“Gabapentin (Neurontin) is the ‘snake oil’ of the twentieth century. It has been reported to be successful in just about everything that they have studied.”

Another Pfizer executive wrote in a memo that there was “negligible evidence” supporting Neurontin’s use to treat bipolar disorder or depression.“

“There is pretty good consensus among experts in the area that gabapentin is not a good anti-manic treatment,” wrote Atul Pande, then vice-president of Pfizer’s neuroscience division.

Both the memo and the email surfaced years after they were written, after discovery motions were filed by lawyers suing the company.

Also, as another article points out:

Health Care Renewal: BLOGSCAN – US Supreme Court Turns Down Pfizer Appeal of RICO Conviction

Pfizer is now officially a racketeering influenced corrupt organization.

Yet although the description of the RICO statute that 1BoringOldMan quoted notes the law can be used to go after the leaders of organized crime, no individual at Pfizer who authorized, directed, or implemented the relevant misbehavior, which was in this case the promotion of Neurontin for off-label uses, for which its benefits were at best unproven, at worse nonexistent, even if its harms are well-documented.

…true health care reform will not occur until the leaders of large health care organizations are made accountable for their actions, and are prevented from becoming amazingly rich while their organizations repeatedly commit unethical or illegal acts that harm patients’ and the public’s health.

10 thoughts on “Neurontin ‘Snake Oil’ Lawsuit Upheld

    1. Zyp Czyk Post author

      From what I’ve heard, if this med only works it can dull, not just your pain, but the rest of you as well. I haven’t heard about using it topically, but it seems that would keep the effects localized.

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  1. Beckie

    Gabapentin is God’s gift to me. My life would be ruined without it. I have EDS hypermobility type. The doctor tried every anti-anxiety med out there, before trying this. He didn’t want to, but he’d already thrown everything else at me and nothing made any difference. (Well, one made my eyeballs shake.) I’m 5′ tall and was 90 lbs before the medicine. Neurontin has stopped the nausea & IBS about 90% of the time. Now most days I’m 107 lbs. My ability to think, remember words and talk to people without stopping to find a word was suddenly back. My chronic pain was muted, so I didn’t need to have naproxen in me half of my life to function.

    My nerves obviously converse too easily. And it takes a lot of gabapentin to slow down my nerves. This is where the doctors usually look at me to see if I am comatose or not because a “normal” person would be. Others that I know take 1 and go to bed, I take 5 to get out of bed. Neurontin is not “snake-oil” it’s just not approved by our government to be regulated for this yet. Every body is different, so everybody has a different solution to their body’s problems.

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  6. Kathy C

    They are marketing gabapentine for short term acute pain, and they view it as an alternative to opiates. I doubt they are even tracking the number of overdoses and adverse events. Once again the system is much too corrupt to consider anyone’s safety or the long term problems with any of these drugs. No one is tracking the anti depressants and otehr drugs and their negative effects on people.

    I just met another one of these victims, who has been on an anti depressant for years, and has had some serious problems. His physician and pharmacist are utterly unaware of the problem, and have no experience with anyone wanting to stop taking these drugs. Apparently the negative effects were not mentioned in the marketing materials. I am constantly shocked by the combinations of drugs many people in their seventies are on, and the failure of their physicians to even ask them what they are already taking, before writing a prescription. Not one of their physicians or health providers has ever discussed interactions or anything with them.

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    1. Zyp Czyk Post author

      Such a cocktail of prescriptions from different doctors cause all kinds of problems. When asked, many people don’t even remember what meds they’re taking and don’t understand why it’s so important. That’s the appeal of EHRs: your medical information would always be accessible by any doctor.

      While I understand that antidepressant use can be problematic for some people, they saved my life and also pulled my mother back from the brink. Again, it’s all about the individual’s response to treatment and not much else matters. If a drug hurts some and saves others, what can be done besides experiment?

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