LONDON Pfizer Inc tried to suppress medical studies that did not support the use of its epilepsy drug Neurontin, internal Pfizer documents submitted in a U.S. lawsuit against the company showed.
The documents suggest that Pfizer's marketers influenced Neurontin's scientific record to boost sales at least until 2003 by delaying the publication or altering the conclusions of studies that had found no evidence the drug worked for various conditions besides epilepsy.
Pfizer, the world's biggest drugmaker, denied the charges. "Pfizer is committed to the communication of medically or scientifically significant results of all studies, regardless of outcome," a company spokesman said in a statement.
The case is the latest in a string of allegations against the pharmaceutical industry suggesting it has controlled the flow of clinical trial research to boost its marketing position.
The documents, including reports by experts who reviewed thousands of company documents for plaintiffs, were submitted to the U.S. District Court in Boston and were made available on its website.
Neurontin was a blockbuster product for Pfizer until 2004, when generic versions of the medicine hit the market. Sales totaled $2.7 billion in 2003.
Pfizer agreed in 2004 to pay $430 million and plead guilty to criminal charges for illegally marketing Neurontin for unapproved uses such as migraines and pain.
The controversy over clinical studies surrounding the treatment echo other recent cases in the drugs industry.
U.S. researchers, for example, claimed in August that Merck & Co Inc had conducted a clinical trial into Vioxx to support a marketing campaign before the launch of the painkiller. Vioxx was withdrawn on safety grounds in 2004.
And both Merck and Schering-Plow Corp were criticised earlier this year for delaying release of negative trial results for their cholesterol drug Vytorin.
(Reporting by Ben Hirschler and Ajay Kamalakaran in Bangalore; Editing by John Stonestreet and David Holmes)