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We can’t say we didn’t see this one coming–and so, at least to some extent, did the class action plaintiffs who sought to bring fraud and Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act claims against Pfizer for its off-label marketing of the epilepsy drug Neurontin. Back in February, we told you that plaintiffs lawyers had asked Boston federal district court judge Patti Saris, who oversees the Neurontin multidistrict litigation, to reconsider her ruling granting Pfizer summary judgment against a pair of insurers who claimed to have been defrauded by Pfizer’s illegal Neurontin marketing. As we noted, the plaintiffs class action steering committee, led by Thomas Sobol of Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro, was worried Judge Saris’s summary judgment ruling in the insurance case presaged doom for the purported class action. The plaintiffs were right to be afraid. On Friday, in a 29-page opinion Judge Saris granted Pfizer summary judgment against all but two of the proposed lead plaintiffs in the consumer and third-party payer case. Her ruling should spell the end of the class action, in which the judge previously denied class certification but the plaintiffs had moved for reconsideration. Judge Saris ruled that only two of the individual consumer plaintiffs provided evidence that their doctors relied on false marketing materials from Pfizer when they decided to prescribe the plaintiffs Neurontin for off-label uses. And the third party payers, she ruled, couldn’t show that the doctors who prescribed Neurontin to their members based their decisions on Pfizer’s marketing. “Because they have presented no evidence as to how many or which physicians who prescribed Neurontin to their members relied on fraud,” Judge Saris wrote, “they cannot establish causation.” (We’ve written about a raft of similar causation-based dismissals of third party payer fraud cases against pharma companies accused of false marketing. Here’s our most recent coverage; and here’s our account of the denial of a Missouri statewide class making allegations about Pfizer’s Neurontin marketing.) Judge Saris’s ruling suggests that the $141 million RICO award Kaiser Health Foundation won against Pfizer is an anomaly in the Neurontin litigation. Kaiser, you’ll recall, won a March 2010 jury verdict of $47 million in a trial of its RICO and fraud claims based on Pfizer’s false marketing; the verdict will be trebled under the RICO statute. In a Nov. 3 ruling, Judge Saris tacked on another $97 million for Kaiser’s California state law claims. Pfizer counsel Mark Cheffo of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom referred us to a Pfizer spokesperson, who sent us this e-mail statement: “We are pleased with the court’s decision to grant us summary judgment for all third party payers and all but two consumers. The court found that these plaintiffs failed to present sufficient evidence to support their claims against the company. The decision validates our long-held view that physicians appropriately prescribed Neurontin based on their independent medical judgment.” Plaintiffs counsel Sobel didn’t return our call. The plaintiffs class steering committee also includes Barry Himmelstein of Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein; Daniel Becnel Jr. of the Law Offices of Daniel E. Becnel Jr.; Don Barrett of the Barrett Law Group; and James Dugan II of the Dugan Law Firm.

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