November 21, 2006
Cephalon promoted Actiq off-label: WSJ
The Connecticut attorney general’s two-year probe of Cephalon has found that the drug maker engaged in improper marketing of pain drug Actiq, The Wall Street Journal reported. Among other tactics, Cephalon promoted the drug off-label to neurologists and touted small studies conducted by doctors to whom it had ties in an effort to get Actiq prescribed for migraines, WSJ said. In addition, Cephalon flew doctors to seminars that promoted Actiq’s use for headaches and in patients who might not tolerate it well. A spokesman for Cephalon told the newspaper the firm is cooperating fully with the investigation. Actiq is a pain lozenge on a handle indicated for breakthough cancer pain, but surveys suggest that more than 80% of patients who use the drug don’t have cancer. A controlled substance, Actiq is 80 times as potent as morphine. It has been associated with 127 deaths, two of which involved children who confused it with candy. In the first nine months of this year, Actiq sales reached $471 million. The probe by the Connecticut AG also focuses on two other Cephalon products, narcolepsy pill Provigil and epilepsy treatment Gabitril. The investigation is drawing to a close and could result in civil charges under the state’s patient and consumer protection laws. If Cephalon opts to settle the case, the AG, Richard Blumenthal, could seek multimillion-dollar fines for restitution and penalties on behalf of Connecticut’s Medicaid program, whose costs to cover the drug have risen sharply, the Journal said. The AG would also likely force the company to adopt a reform program.