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Pfizer Set To Cough Up $430M

May 14, 2004 | Boston Herald

David Franklin says it was worries about patients who may have been harmed that sustained him in an 8-year-fight against a giant drug maker that ended yesterday with a $430 million settlement.

Franklin, who spent four months as a liaison to doctors for Parke-Davis Inc. now owned by Pfizer, charged the company illegally promoted off-label uses for Neurontin, an epilepsy drug.

As a whistleblower, Franklin, 42, will get $26.6 million from the settlement.

Government prosecutors eventually took up the charge and yesterday announced the settlement, which includes a $240 criminal fine.

Massachusetts will get $8.3 million through the settlement.

According to Franklin, the company urged its representatives to give misleading and wrong information to doctors to encourage them to prescribe Neurontin for ailments it hadn't been approved to treat.

Pfizer officials said yesterday that the settlement pertains to practices of Parke-Davis before Pfizer bought its owner, Warner Lambert.

Doctors are allowed to prescribe drugs for uses that haven't been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. But companies can't promote those uses.

Franklin said he should have realized during his interview for the job that there was a problem. He was asked questions about how he would handle certain ethical situations that, in retrospect, were unusual, he said.

But he wanted to use his Ph.D. in microbiology in the pharmaceutical industry. He said he liked the idea of working with doctors to give them information to help their patients.

Franklin said the company told him to tell doctors that studies showed the drug could be used to treat such things as bi-polar disorders. In reality, the company had a study showing a placebo had outperformed Neurontin in treating bi-polar conditions.

Franklin said he figured out something was wrong when a doctor confronted him.

``I realized the company was deceiving me,'' Franklin said. ``I learned that I was paid to mislead physicians and put patients at risk. It was a situation I couldn't live with.''

Franklin, who now works for Boston Scientific, said there were times when he wanted to walk away from it all.

``All it took (to hang on) was the recognition that to this day patients are being injured by this kind of practice,'' he said.

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