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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 31, 2005
McKenna Announces Nearly $15 Million in Grants Available to Educate Consumers, Physicians about Drug Marketing


SEATTLE – Attorney General Rob McKenna today announced that up to $14.9 million is available to fund programs that educate the public about drug marketing techniques. The grant money is part of a multi-state settlement with the makers of Neurontin, a prescription epilepsy drug.

“The Washington State Attorney General’s Office led part of a multi-state investigation concerning illegal drug marketing that resulted in a $430 million settlement last year,” McKenna said. “Nearly $15 million is now available to agencies and organizations that develop campaigns to help physicians, pharmacists and consumers access fair and balanced information about prescription drugs. These grants will help patients and health care providers better understand the drug-approval process and how drug companies market their products.”

A multi-state committee will award the grants to qualifying groups that submit proposals by Oct. 7, 2005. Preference will be given to programs that are national in scope.

Proposals can be submitted by states or other governmental entities, academic institutions, or not-for-profit organizations that have expertise and experience in health-related or consumer protection issues. Non-profit organizations must also submit written support for their request from their state’s Attorney General’s Office.

Application information can be found at www.publichealthtrust.org and at www.naag.org.

Additional money from the settlement will later be available for projects related to seizure disorders and psychological conditions for which Neurontin has been prescribed.

Background:

The Washington State Attorney General's Medicaid Fraud Control Unit, with assistance from the Consumer Protection Division, led a joint federal and state investigation focused on allegations Neurontin drug maker Warner-Lambert, now a division of Pfizer, violated state consumer protection laws through the use of “off-labeling marketing.”

Off-label marketing involves the promotion of prescription drugs for purposes that have not been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

While Neurontin was approved for certain epilepsy patients, the company promoted the drug for other medical uses, such as bipolar disorder and pain management, which were not approved by the FDA. While it may be appropriate for physicians to prescribe drugs for off-label uses, it is illegal for pharmaceutical manufacturers to promote the off-label use of their drugs.

Payments made by Warner-Lambert to physicians for “research” were in effect inducements to prescribe Neurontin for off-label purposes. The marketing campaign resulted in inappropriate and unnecessary prescriptions paid by the state Medicaid program.

Attorneys general in 50 states including Washington reached a $430 million settlement with Warner-Lambert. The agreement called for $152 million in restitution to various state Medicaid programs, including $4 million for Washington’s program. It also included $38 million for violating consumer protection laws; of which, about 75 percent will be used for to educate consumers and physicians. The remaining $240 million is a federal fine for violations of the federal Food, Drug and Cosmetics Act.

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For more information contact:
Kristin Alexander, Public Information Officer, at (206) 464-6432

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