And it’s official.
First we had Lilley and the Zyprexa scandal, now we have Pfizer and Bextra (together with an admission of criminal marketing activities involving 13 different Pfizer drugs).
Nice people, eh?
This from ALEX BRUMMER, of the Daily Mail.
America hits out at big pharma 3 September 2009
When the US Department of Justice strikes against corporate wrong-doing, it does so in style.
The massive £1.4bn fine levied on drug maker Pfizer, best known for its little blue pill, will send shockwaves through the pharmaceutical industry.
The charges and larger part of the fine paid by Pfizer relate to the pain relief drug Bextra, which has now been withdrawn from the American market.
The company actively marketed the drug – inherited from Pharmacia – to doctors for the treatment of acute and surgical pain, even though it had not been approved for this purpose.
But more seriously it has admitted to systemic abuse by improperly marketing some 13 different medicines.
Its methods included lavish entertainment of medical professionals at holiday resorts as part of the effort to persuade them to prescribe its compounds.
What is breathtaking is the sheer scale of false and misleading claims made for Bextra in particular.
The firmness of the DofJ action could prove to be a godsend to President Obama as he seeks to reform America’s high-cost health care system.
There has been a long standing belief that the American public has been badly served by the drugs industry, which makes extortionate profits at their expense.
Indeed, last night the New York attorney general Andrew Cuomo charged that Pfizer ‘ripped off’ taxpayers across the country to pad its bottom line.
As part of the deal Pfizer has agreed to post on its website details of any payments or other benefits in kind to doctors or their representatives. There is a similarity here to GlaxoSmithKline’s promise to publish all its research data online following its difficulties in the US with its anti-depression drug Seroxat.
The US authorities have drawn a line in the sand with the severe justice meted out to Pfizer, which saw its shares tumble when the detail of the fine was released. The fine sets an ominous precedent for the other big pharmaceutical firms which find themselves in difficulty with patients, the authorities and the legal system.