Haters of Big Pharma, rejoice! Pfizer has been smacked with a $2.3 billion (yes, with a B) civil penalty which includes a $1.2 billion criminal fine after they did some very, very bad things while promoting painkiller Bextra and other drugs. That’s the largest criminal fine in American history. Let’s hope they’re proud!
The company is accused of aggressively marketing four drugs to doctors for “off-label” uses, or prescribing a medicine for a use for which it hasn’t been explicitly tested and approved by the FDA. And by “aggressively marketing” we mean “taking doctors on vacations and feeding lavish meals while handing over huge metaphorical sacks of cash.”
In financial filings in January, the company had indicated that it would pay $2.3 billion over allegations it had marketed the pain reliever Bextra and possibly other drugs for medical conditions different than their approved use. The civil settlement announced Wednesday also covered Pfizer’s promotions of three other drugs: blockbuster nerve pain and epilepsy treatment Lyrica, schizophrenia medicine Geodon, antibiotic Zyvox and nine other medicines. Pfizer said the agreement with the Justice Department resolves the investigation into promotion of all those drugs, plus several related whistleblower lawsuits.
Under terms of the settlement, Pfizer must pay $1 billion to compensate Medicaid, Medicare, and other federal health care programs. Some of that money will be shared among the states: New York, for example, will receive $66 million, according to the state’s attorney general, Andrew Cuomo.
There’s nothing wrong with off-label use of medicines, but there’s plenty wrong with aggressively marketing medicines to physicians for off-label use.
Pfizer to pay record $2.3B penalty over promotions [Boston]
Pfizer settlement: Be wary of off-label drug use [Consumer Reports Health]