GlaxoSmithKline PLC will pay $105 million to dozens of states to settle allegations that it unlawfully marketed its asthma drug Advair and the antidepressants Paxil and Wellbutrin.
Under the settlement announced Wednesday, the London-based pharmaceutical also agreed to rules that bar it from paying doctors to promote its products; providing financial incentives that encourage salespeople to market drugs for unapproved uses; marketing drugs using results from inadequate studies or making unapproved claims that a product was "better, more effective, safer or has less serious side effects," according to a statement from California Attorney General Kamala D. Harris.
California was among states whose attorneys general filed identical lawsuits in local courts. It will receive more than $7 million — the largest single portion of the settlement — after the deal is approved in San Diego County Superior Court.
The state lawsuits claimed that GlaxoSmithKline violated state consumer protection laws by misrepresenting the uses and qualities of the drugs and marketing them for purposes unapproved by the Food and Drug Administration — a practice called off-label marketing.
GlaxoSmithKline did not acknowledge any wrongdoing under the settlement, which is similar to one reached with the federal government in 2012 for a record $3 billion.
Its marketing practices also are under investigation in Britain, China and several other countries.
Nearly every big drugmaker has been prosecuted for off-label marketing and agreed to settlements with the government. Last year, Pfizer Inc. agreed to pay nearly $491 million to resolve an investigation into off-label marketing of the organ transplant drug Rapamune by a company Pfizer later acquired.
The GlaxoSmithKline settlement covers 44 states and the Washington capital district. Louisiana previously settled its own suit.
GlaxoSmithKline said it already has put reforms in place.
Four years ago, GlaxoSmithKline committed to "stopping payments to doctors to speak about our products, stopping payments to doctors to attend medical conferences and cutting the tie linking the pay of our sales representatives who call on prescribers in the U.S. to the number of prescriptions issued," the company said in a statement. It said it was also rolling out such changes outside the U.S.