Healthcare insurers had sued Pfizer under the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, better known as RICO. Under the law an enterprise is liable if it commits a number of "predicate acts."
The act is normally used against organized crime but it also has a number of civil applications.
Pfizer is being sued for marketing the pain management drug Neurontin "for off-label uses for which it is allegedly ineffective."
In one case, Pfizer Inc. vs. Kaiser Foundation Health Plan Inc., Pfizer already lost a verdict awarding $142 million in damages, SCOTUSBLOG.com reported..
And because of the off-label campaign, Pfizer and its predecessors were fined $430 million in a U.S. Justice Department case.
Following the Justice Department action, insurers sued Pfizer under RICO, saying the company had persuaded doctors to prescribe the drug for off-label uses and caused insurers to pay for it. Despite the $142 million award in the Kaiser case, a number of other suits were dismissed in U.S. District Court.
However, the federal appeals court in Boston upheld the verdict and reversed the dismissals.
In opposing Supreme Court review, a Kaiser brief said Pfizer "strategically conducted a decade-long, multifaceted fraud to make Neurontin a blockbuster drug. Pfizer originally estimated that Neurontin would earn $500 million in revenues from uses approved by the Food and Drug Administration. Through a methodical campaign of fraudulent off-label marketing, however, Pfizer transformed a niche drug into a $10 billion juggernaut, leading Pfizer's own national sales team to deem it 'the snake oil of the twentieth century.'"