UPDATE -- X-ray contrast case: Bracco wins $11.4 M in damages from GE

March 30, 2009
Greg Freiherr

GE Healthcare is on the hook for $11.4 million to Bracco Diagnostics after the U.S. District Court for New Jersey ruled that GE used false advertising to win sales for its x-ray contrast agent Visipaque over Bracco’s Isovue agent.

Buoyed by last week's U.S. District Court decision, Bracco Diagnostics is anything but shy about saying GE Healthcare used "false and misleading advertising and marketing" to gain an advantage for its Visipaque x-ray contrast agent over Bracco's Isovue product. But how -- or even whether -- the company will use the legal finding in its future marketing of Isovue is a matter of speculation the company is not willing to address, at least not publicly.

"We cannot comment on our ongoing marketing plans," said a Bracco spokeswoman, "but we are pleased with the outcome of the litigation and think healthcare providers have a right to receive accurate scientific information. They have a right to know that the court ruled that GE Healthcare had engaged in false and misleading advertising and marketing."

Although GE efforts allegedly extended to x-ray contrast agents other than Isovue, these agents and their manufacturers were not included in the outcome of the court case because the Italian maker of contrast agents was the only party to the lawsuit, according to the Bracco spokeswoman.

"We are pleased with the award we were given," she said, "which actually represents one of the largest awards for false advertising claims in U.S. history."

 

GE Healthcare is on the hook for $11.4 million to Bracco Diagnostics after the U.S. District Court for New Jersey ruled that GE used false advertising to win sales for its x-ray contrast agent Visipaque over Bracco's Isovue agent.

Bracco is framing the ruling, handed down March 27, as "one of the most significant false advertising cases to date." Filed in 2003, the litigation revolves around GE's use of a clinical study published that year in the New England Journal of Medicine. The study compared two contrast agents, Visipaque and Omnipaque, both of which were made by GE. Bracco alleged in the court case that GE used the data to claim that its Visipaque was safer than other products not compared in the study, including Bracco's Isovue. GE Healthcare made the advertising claims even though studies by independent researchers, as well as ones conducted by Bracco and GE, demonstrated that they were inappropriate, according to Bracco.

In its decision, the court sided with Bracco, permanently enjoining GE Healthcare from making inaccurate claims and ordered GE to pay damages of $11.4 million, according to a statement from Bracco on the court's findings. GE must also perform corrective actions that include issuing a press release and taking out advertisements to ensure that healthcare providers are informed about the court's findings.

For more information from the Diagnostic Imaging and SearchMedica archives:

Swedish study finds higher renal failure rate for Visipaque than HexabrixContrast-induced nephropathy: how high the risk?