Pfizer Turned NAMI Into "Trojan Horse" to Push Geodon Off-Label to Kids, Suit Claims

Last Updated Sep 16, 2009 5:17 PM EDT

Pfizer funded the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill in order to turn the nonprofit into a "Trojan Horse" that would promote the antipsychotic drug Geodon for off-label use in children, according to a former pharmaceutical sales rep. Mark R. Westlock of Fenton, Mo., was a rep for Pfizer from 1991 to 2007, when he claims he was forced to resign. His whistleblower suit against Pfizer was included in the $2.3 billion Bextra settlement.

Pfizer denied Westlock's claims:
Pfizer denies all federal, state and qui tam allegations, with two exceptions. We acknowledge certain improper actions related to the past promotion of Bextra and Zyvox. Beyond those two exceptions we deny all federal and state and qui tam claims.
Following Pfizer's funding, the NAMI web site suggested that Geodon be used in children even though the FDA had approved it only for adults, Westlock claims:

(Click to enlarge.) Westlock's suit breaks down Big Pharma's funding of NAMI like this. From 1996-1999, companies gave NAMI $11.72 million:
  • Janssen $2.08 million
  • Novartis $1.87 million
  • Pfizer $1.3 million
  • Abbott Laboratories $1.24 million
  • Wyeth-Ayerst Pharmaceuticals $658,000
  • Bristol-Myers Squibb $613,505
From 2002-2003, companies gave NAMI a further $4 million per year, the suit alleges:
... the organization operates through significant financial support from Defendant Pfizer and other drug makers. Defendant NAMI reciprocates Defendant Pfizer's support by the promotion of the off-label use of Pfizer products, including Geodon ...
Even the president of NAMI, James McNulty, was on Pfizer's payroll, the suit alleges:
During the time he was president of NAMI, James McNulty received thousands of dollars for regularly speaking on behalf of Pfizer and other drug makers at various company sponsored events. In an arrangement ethicists say is highly irregular, McNulty would process the "grants" through NAMI Rhode Island. In order to reduce paperwork, according to McNulty, the drug maker would then give NAMI Rhode Island a check and NAMI Rhode Island would in turn give McNulty a check. At no time did McNulty disclose to the audiences at his various speaking engagements, or to NAMI's membership, that he was being paid to speak by drug makers.
The number of antipsychotic scripts written for children doubled to 4.4 million between 2003 and 2006, Westlock claims.

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