Ken Paxton

Monday, January 6, 2003

Attorney General Abbott Wins Concessions With Pfizer Inc.

AUSTIN--Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott announced today that Texas, along with 18 other state attorneys general, reached a multimillion-dollar settlement with Pfizer Inc. concerning the drug maker's marketing of Zithromax. The settlement also requires Pfizer to market the child ear medication in a way that does not mislead consumers about its effectiveness.

The prescription medication Zithromax has been widely promoted as safe and effective in treating bacteria that cause the common childhood ear infection known as "acute otitis media." However, Texas and other states raised concerns about certain claims made by the company, particularly about the convenience of the medication when taken orally. Attorney General Abbott said the company also overplayed the medicine's effectiveness when compared to other antibiotics used to treat this illness.

As part of this settlement, the company agreed to pay the states $4 million. Of that amount, Texas will receive $300,000 as reimbursement for attorney fees and investigative costs. The company will additionally spend $2 million producing public service announcements explaining the proper use of antibiotics in treating this disorder.

"We believe Pfizer's assertions about this drug's effectiveness could have misled parents into believing the more they use the product the better their child would feel," said Attorney General Abbott. "These claims have not been substantiated and might have led to unwarranted overuse of the medicine."

Though not admitting to any wrongdoing, Pfizer agreed to make certain disclosures accompanying its claims that the medication is easy to use by mouth and can be used frequently to combat this ear condition. Chief among these disclosures is the acknowledgment that a treating physician should consider several factors prior to prescribing Zithromax to children, including dosage convenience. In addition, the company must disclose that the disease's resistance to certain antibiotics may play a role in a physician's choice of medication to prescribe.

The company also agreed that if it makes similar health claims in the future, it must base these on sound scientific studies, disclose whether the studies were peer-reviewed, and reveal whether they were paid for by Pfizer.

Other settling states include Arizona, Arkansas, Connecticut, Florida, Kansas, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Mexico, New York, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Vermont and Wisconsin.