Pfizer settles Oregon probe over false advertising

Pfizer has agreed to shell out $975,000 after Oregon's Department of Justice found the pharmaceutical giant misled consumers with deceptive coupons.

Posted: Mar 11, 2019 12:38 PM

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — Pfizer has agreed to shell out $975,000 after Oregon's Department of Justice found the pharmaceutical giant misled consumers with deceptive coupons.

Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum announced details of the six-figure settlement on Monday, saying the pharmaceutical giant was "taking advantage of Oregonians."

"Pfizer enticed consumers with these coupons for one reason only —to sell its brand-name drugs instead of a cheaper generic," she said in a statement. "These coupons were simply not a good deal for consumers, who were misled by Pfizer into thinking they were."

The pharmaceutical giant's coupons promised that consumers would "pay no more than" $15, $20 or $25 as copayment for certain brand name drugs, but customers wound up paying much more. A four-month investigation from the Oregon Department of Justice found that 371 people paid $40,000 more than the amount promised by the coupons.

The misleading coupons were for Estring to treat vaginal atrophy, Quillivant and Quillichew ER for ADHD, Nicotrol Inhaler to help quit smoking, and Flector patches for treatment of minor injuries.

Rosenblum's office said $620,000 of the settlement funds will be donated to two local nonprofit health organizations that serve low-income and underinsured residents. The rest will be used to refund customers and pay for future Department of Justice investigations.

Pfizer confirmed the details of the settlement, and said it will change the information on some of its coupons.

Consumers who used the misleading coupons between 2014 and 2018 will automatically be refunded in the mail, with each person receiving an average payment of $108.

Oregon has slapped Pfizer with $10 million in civil settlements since 2003.

Pfizer agreed to a $700,000 settlement with New York state last year over similar charges.

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