Hawaii and the other 49 states have reached a multimillion-dollar settlement with the maker of drugs to treat stroke, blood pressure and lung ailments over the company’s deceptive marketing practices.

The $13.5 million settlement, finalized Friday, stemmed from a multi-state investigation into allegations that Boehringer Ingelheim unlawfully promoted its four brand-name prescription drugs — Aggrenox, Atrovent, Combivent and Micardis — for off-label use and made deceptive claims about their effectiveness.

According to lawsuits filed last week by the states and the District of Columbia, Boehringer Ingelheim, for instance, allegedly misrepresented that Aggrenox — an antiplatelet drug approved to reduce the risk of secondary stroke in patients who have had a “mini-stroke” — was superior to competing drug Plavix in treating many conditions “below the neck,” such as heart attacks.


Boehringer Ingelheim
The plaintiffs claimed the settlement with Boehringer Ingelheim will help protect vulnerable customers. Boehringer Ingelheim

Boehringer Ingelheim is also alleged to have falsely asserted that Atrovent and Combivent were essential for treating chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and could be used at doses that exceeded the maximum recommendation in the product labeling.

Lisa Tong, attorney who handled Hawaii’s lawsuit on behalf of the state Office of Consumer Protection, told Civil Beat that the settlement requires Boehringer Ingelheim to ensure that its marketing and promotional practices won’t unlawfully promote its products.

Tong said Hawaii’s share of the settlement is $146,000. “It was a good result for the state,” she said.

Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, who led the settlement executive committee, said the settlement will help protect vulnerable consumers.

“Consumers, particularly senior citizens, rely on doctors and drug manufacturers to provide accurate information about the risks and benefits of prescription drugs,” Shapiro said in a statement.

“When a company misrepresents the benefit of a drug, it can cause real harm to consumers. I won’t allow Pennsylvanians to be hurt by companies that make these kind of misleading claims, and I’m holding Boehringer Ingelheim accountable for its deceptive conduct,” Shapiro said.

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