Union Benefit Plan Files Suit Against Pfizer

March 30, 2006 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - The Welfare fund of Teamsters Local Union 863 has filed a lawsuit against Pfizer Inc. over the company's off-label promotion of Lipitor, alleging that it has paid for billions of dollars of unwarranted use of the drug over the past five years.

Business Insurance reports that the suit seeks class action status, and other plaintiffs expected to join include employer-sponsored benefit plans located in Florida, Illinois, Indiana, New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania, according to a press release issued by Grant & Eisenhofer PA, the New York-based securities law firm handling the complaint.

The suit notes that the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Lipitor for use only in accordance with Adult Treatment Plan III, guidelines that require that diet and exercise be tried before drug therapy is administered, except when patients run an exceptionally high risk of developing coronary heart disease. According to Business Insurance, the complaint alleges Pfizer has been encouraging the use of the cholesterol-lowering drug, though, even when those guidelines are not followed.

As a result, approximately 14.6 million people are taking the drug needlessly, the suit states.

The suit also claims that Pfizer downplayed in its marketing materials the harmful side effects of the drug, which include digestive problems, pain, respiratory problems, rashes and potentially fatal complications of the liver and skeletal muscles.

The suit was filed in US District Court in New Jersey.