Grant Money Available Through Drug Settlement
Friday, Attorney General Drew Edmondson said more than $14.9 million in grant money is now available as part of a 2004 settlement with pharmaceutical company Warner-Lambert. Warner-Lambert, which is a division of Pfizer, the world’s largest pharmaceutical company, agreed to pay the money as part of a 50-state settlement reached in May of 2004. The states had accused Warner-Lambert of marketing their drug, Neurontin, for various “off-label” indications. “Off-label” refers to using a drug to treat ailments for which it was not originally intended or scientifically tested.Neurontin is traditionally used to treat epilepsy, but it is frequently prescribed to treat various psychiatric disorders, back pain and headache. It is illegal for pharmaceutical manufacturers to promote the off-label use of their drugs, although doctors are permitted to prescribe medication for such uses. Approximately 90 percent of Neurontin prescriptions are for off-label uses.According to Edmondson, the grant money is available to some health care organizations or groups that have expertise in health-related or consumer protection issues.“Under the terms of the settlement, this money is to be spent to educate doctors, pharmacists and other health professionals about how to get fair and balanced information about prescription drugs,” Edmondson said. “I would encourage anyone who works in that arena to put together a program and apply for funding through this settlement.”The deadline to submit grant proposals is Oct.7. At that time, a special committee made up of attorneys general from around the country will award the grant money. For more information or to request a grant application, log on to www.publichealthtrust.org. “We hope this settlement will encourage more responsible promotion within the pharmaceutical industry,” Edmondson said. “It’s imperative that doctors and the public at large be able to trust the information that comes from drug makers. Promoting prescription medication for uses that haven’t been tested jeopardizes the patient’s medical care.”The 2004 settlement resulted in the states receiving approximately $40 million from Warner-Lambert. Of that, $28 million will be used in a remediation program and $10 million was distributed to the participating states to be used for attorney's fees and other costs of investigation. Oklahoma received about $25,000 from the settlement.The states’ settlement also resolved investigations by the National Association of Medicaid Fraud Control Units and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Boston. In all, Warner-Lambert was ordered to pay a total of $430 million.