Pfizer to Pay Largest Criminal Fine in History

Friday, September 04, 2009

After paying $75 million for illegally testing an antibiotic on African children, pharmaceutical manufacturer Pfizer has agreed to pay the largest health care fraud settlement and the largest criminal fine of any kind ever for illegally marketing the painkiller Bextra and committing other criminal violations as well. The $2.3 billion settlement is the fourth that Pfizer has reached out of court since 2002 for illegal marketing activities.

U.S. Attorney Michael K. Loucks said part of the reason why the settlement was so large was because of Pfizer’s previous blunders. “Among the factors we considered in calibrating this severe punishment was Pfizer’s recidivism,” Loucks told The New York Times.
Pfizer’s general counsel, Amy W. Schulman, claimed that her company had learned its lesson this time. “The reasons to trust Pfizer are because, as I have walked the halls at Pfizer, you would see that the vast majority of our employees spend their lives dedicated to bringing truly important medications to patients and physicians in an appropriate manner,” she said.
Pfizer pled guilty to violating the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act for misbranding Bextra with the intent to defraud or mislead. The drug had been approved by the Food and Drug Administration, but Pfizer promoted it as a remedy for other uses not sanctioned by federal officials. Bextra was ultimately pulled off the market in 2005 after it was linked to increased risks of heart attacks, strokes and blood clotting.
The settlement also covered allegations of illegal promotion of other drugs: Geodon, an anti-psychotic; Zyvox, an antibiotic; and Lyrica, an anti-epileptic drug. Furthermore, the agreement resolved accusations that Pfizer paid kickbacks to health care providers for prescribing these, and other, drugs to patients.
-David Wallechinsky
Pfizer Agrees to Record Criminal Fine in Fraud Probe (by Cary O’Reilly and Tony Capaccio, Bloomberg News)
Pfizer Pays $2.3 Billion to Settle Marketing Case (by Gardiner Harris, New York Times)


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