Pfizer Rep Alleges Viagra Promoted With Unapproved Materials: "Get Those Things Cleaned Up!"

Last Updated Sep 8, 2009 1:32 PM EDT

Blair Collins, a former Pfizer sales rep who received $2.4 million as one of the whistleblowers in the $2.3 billion Bextra settlement, alleged that reps used unapproved studies and pricing sheets to promote Viagra, among other drugs.

Collins worked at Pfizer beginning in 1998, ending his career in a Utah territory in 2003, according to his recently unsealed federal court complaint. Pfizer denies his allegations:

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.
Collins claims he began to have doubts about how he was asked to promote Pfizer's drugs, which included Viagra and Lipitor, when one of his colleagues started showing doctors what Collins alleges were "illegal price lists" for pharmaceuticals.

These lists compared Pfizer drugs to their competitors as listed at a local Walmart, where Pfizer's drugs were cheaper. This practice is prohibited by federal law, Collins claims, if the lists have not been verified by a third party or if the lists give the impression that the drugs on them are equivalents. Collins claims he approached his district manager about using the lists, but was told:

Don't worry about it Blair.
Unfortunately for the DM, Collins was keeping records of all his dealings with his colleagues, including their voicemails.

In one voicemail prior to a Plan of Action Meeting in May 2003 in Denver, Collins was set to make a presentation regarding Viagra. Before the meeting, the DM sent a voicemail to his team asking them to "clean" their detail books of any unapproved materials. The voicemail said:

... if there's anything like, um, price sheets, spreadsheets, you know, unapproved clinicals, uh, to make sure that we get those things cleaned up, and uh, get those things out of there.
The full transcript of what Collins alleges is the voicemail is below (click to enlarge):

Pfizer general counsel Amy W. Schulman said in a statement:

We regret certain actions taken in the past, but are proud of the action we've taken to strengthen our internal controls and pioneer new procedures so that we not only comply with state and federal laws, but also meet the high standards that patients, physicians and the public expect from a leading worldwide company dedicated to healing and better health.