19 States Settle With Pfizer Over Drug Ads

From Reuters

Pfizer Inc. has settled with 19 states on a consumer protection investigation of allegations that the company used misleading ads to tout the children's ear infection drug Zithromax, Atty. Gen. Bill Lockyer said Monday.

Lockyer said New York-based Pfizer would pay $4 million for costs and attorney fees and fund a $2-million public service announcement campaign during the next three years about the appropriate use of the medicine. Pfizer was accused of failing to disclose information on the risks of overusing antibiotics.

"This settlement should help encourage consumers to never rely solely on claims made in paid advertisements," Lockyer said.

Pfizer, which admitted no wrongdoing or violation of any law, said advertising and promotional materials for Zithromax have been consistent with the medicine's labeling.

The attorneys general of California and eight other states last year began an investigation of Pfizer ads aimed at consumers and health-care professionals that focused on how much Zithromax should be administered for otitis media, a severe ear infection that commonly affects young children.

The state officials alleged that the ads failed to disclose information about the risks of antibiotic resistance and other factors physicians need to consider before prescribing the drug.

As part of the agreement, Pfizer is barred from making any representation in ads about Zithromax regarding dosage, frequency of use or effectiveness unless the company has well-documented scientific evidence to support such claims, Lockyer's office said.

Pfizer also must carry warnings about the threat of antibiotic resistance if the company compares the drug's effectiveness with other treatments and reminders to consumers that antibiotics do not work for viral infections such as colds or flu.

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