Carr: Attorneys General Reach $13.5M Consumer Settlement Concerning Off-Label Promotion of Prescription Drugs

December 22, 2017

ATLANTA, GA – Attorney General Chris Carr today announced that all 50* states and the District of Columbia have reached a $13.5 million settlement with Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (BIPI) regarding its alleged off-label marketing and deceptive and misleading representations made in its promotion of four of its prescription drugs: Micardis®, Aggrenox®, Atrovent®, and Combivent®.

“Making false claims about the benefits, uses and acceptable doses of prescription drugs is a dangerous and deceptive practice that risks consumers’ health,” said Attorney General Chris Carr. “This settlement sends a strong message that our office and my fellow attorneys general will not tolerate unlawful practices that mislead consumers.”

The settlement resolves allegations that BIPI engaged in a course of trade or commerce that constitutes unfair, deceptive or misleading practices, by making misrepresentations about the aforementioned prescription drugs and by representing that the prescription drugs had sponsorship, approval, characteristics, ingredients, uses, benefits, quantities or qualities that they did not have. 

Specifically, the States allege BIPI: (1) misrepresented that its antiplatelet drug, Aggrenox®, was effective for many conditions “below the neck”, such as heart attacks and congestive heart failure, and that it was superior to Plavix® without evidence to substantiate that claim; (2) misrepresented that Micardis® protected patients from early morning strokes and heart attacks and treated metabolic syndrome; (3) misrepresented that Combivent® could be used as a first-line treatment for bronchospasms associated with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD); and (4) falsely stated that Atrovent® and Combivent® could be used at doses that exceeded the maximum dosage recommendation in the product labeling and that they were essential for treatment of COPD.   

The Consent Judgment requires BIPI to ensure that its marketing and promotional practices do not unlawfully promote these prescription drug products.  Specifically, BIPI will: 

  • Limit product sampling of the four drugs to health care providers whose clinical practice is consistent with the product labeling;
  • Refrain from offering financial incentives for sales that may indicate off-label use of any of the four drugs;
  • Ensure clinically relevant information is provided in an unbiased manner that is distinct from promotional materials; and
  • Provide that requests for off-label information regarding any of the four drugs are referred to BIPI’s Medical Division.

*Due to a change in Arizona law, the Arizona settlement does not include certain injunctive terms related to off-label marketing.