Aspitzer Announces $14.9 Million Prescription Drug Education Grant Program Funded By Settlement With Pfizer
Attorney General Spitzer today announced that approximately $14.9 million in grants for prescription drug education are now available as part of the 2004 consumer protection settlement with Warner-Lambert (a division of Pfizer Inc. – the world’s largest pharmaceutical company) resolving allegations of deceptive "off-label" marketing of the blockbuster drug Neurontin© .
The Neurontin consumer protection investigation focused on alleged violations of state consumer protection laws that occurred when Warner-Lambert promoted the drug for various "off-label" indications. It is illegal for pharmaceutical manufacturers to promote the off-label use of their drugs, although doctors are permitted to prescribe for such uses. Neurontin is a prescription medication approved by the Food and Drug Administration ("FDA") for assistance in the treatment of epilepsy and treatment of post-herpetic neuralgia. Approximately 90% of Neurontin prescriptions, however, are for off-label purposes.
The May 2004 consumer protection settlement was part of a $430 million global federal and state settlement involving allegations that Warner-Lambert, now a division of Pfizer, engaged in improper off-label marketing of Neurontin. The consumer protection share of the global settlement was approximately $38 million. Twenty-eight million dollars is allocated to the grant program and to a corrective advertising program intended to provide balanced information to consumers and prescribers about Neurontin and similar drugs. Ten million dollars is earmarked for attorney’s fees and costs.
The grants will be allocated in two phases. Phase One will fund education on the drug-approval process, drug marketing, and sources of accurate information about drugs for health care professionals to improve prescription practices and for patients and their families to be better informed consumers of prescription drugs. Preference will be given to national programs. Phase Two will focus on conditions, specifically seizure disorders and psychological conditions, for which Neurontin has been prescribed. The details of the second funding phase will be developed as the program progresses.
Proposals can be submitted by governmental entities; academic institutions; and not-for-profit organizations with current section 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status. Applicants should have expertise in health-related or consumer protection issues.
Requests for Application may be found at www.naag.org and www.ag.ny.gov. The submission deadline for the first round of funding for Phase One grant proposals is October 7, 2005. The Special Committee which will award the grants consists of the Offices of the Attorney General in the following states: New York, California, Florida, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Texas and Vermont.