Pfizer Rep Claims Bextra Pushed on NHL's Blue Jackets

Last Updated Sep 11, 2009 1:04 PM EDT

Pfizer sales reps allegedly promoted Bextra to the NHL's Columbus Blue Jackets, even though it was only approved for arthritis and menstrual pain -- and not the injuries or surgery that hockey players experience. (Plus the Blue Jackets are an all-male team.) The accusation came in one of the whistleblower claims wrapped into the $2.3 billion Bextra settlement.

The complaint was brought by former Pfizer sales rep Glenn DeMott, who joined the company via UpJohn in 1987. He claims that Pfizer management made efforts to get its massive sales force to comply with its agreements with the federal government to only market drugs for approved uses, but that regional and district sales managers routinely ignored these attempts.

A Pfizer spokesperson said:

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.
In May and July of 2004, Pfizer did a compliance training for all reps to steer them away from off-label promotion. Then-Pfizer president J. Patrick Kelly even gave reps a "Compliance Cookbook" that banned paying doctors to give sham training sessions and "journal clubs," at which doctors give drug talks for money. But, DeMott claims:
Within hours of the new Pfizer compliance training in May 2004, Relator observed Pfizer's regional and district managers training representatives in off-label marketing ...
One of the strangest aspects of these off-label efforts, DeMott alleges, were sales reps' attempts to get the Ohio Blue Jackets to use Bextra on their players:

(Click to enlarge.) DeMott's claim also covers alleged activities on migraine drug Relpax and contraceptive Depo-Provera. Pfizer paid docs $250 to train sales reps on the use of Relpax -- even though they already knew everything about it, DeMott alleges:

And $500 to $700 was available to docs who accompanied sales reps on their visits to other doctors, DeMott claims.

More widely, DeMott alleged that Pfizer would give docs hundreds of Depo-Provera samples in return for large standing orders, thus lowering the doctors' costs beneath the reimbursed price of the drug, in violation of kickback laws.