Pfizer Slapped With $2.3 Billion Fine For Illegally Promoting Drugs & Defrauding Gov't

Pharmaceutical Giant, Pfizer Inc. and its subsidiaries Pharmacia & Upjohn Company were slapped with a record $2.3 billion in fines for illegal drug promotion which included bribing doctors with free golf, massages and trips. It is the largest health care fraud settlement in the history of the Department of Justice (DOJ) and originated as a whistleblower lawsuit brought by six Pfizer employees who will now share in more than $102 million.

Settlement Details

According to a press release from the US Department of Justice, the settlement is broken down into two areas, 1) felony violations of the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, and 2) violations of the False Claims Act.

  • $1.3B for Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act violations. Pharmacia & Upjohn have pled guilty to a felony violation of the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act for misbranding Bextra with the intent to defraud or mislead. Bextra was a prescription drug used in the treatment of osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and painful menstruation and menstrual symptoms and was pulled from the market in 2005 due to an increased risk of heart attacks and strokes, Pfizer promoted the sale of the drug for several uses and dosages that the FDA specifically declined to approve due to safety concerns.
  • $1B for False Claim Act violations. Pfizer will pay $1 billion to resolve allegations under the civil False Claims Act, or Qui Tam Statute, that it illegally 1) promoted Bextra; Geodon, an anti-psychotic drug; Zyvox, an antibiotic; and Lyrica, an anti-epileptic drug – and caused false claims to be submitted to government health care programs (Medicare and Medicaid) for uses that were not medically accepted indications and therefore not covered by those programs, and 2) paid kickbacks to health care providers to induce them to prescribe drugs.

Corporate Integrity Agreements

In addition to the recording breaking fines, Pfizer's actions will now be closely watched by the federal government. It has entered into a separate corporate integrity agreement with the Office of Inspector General of the Department of Health and Human Services which will monitor the company and its subsidiaries for the next five years.

President Obama recently expanded the False Claims Act to reduce abuse against the federal government and an increase in whistleblower lawsuits is likely. If you've experienced fraudulent activity by your employer against the government, contact an experienced Qui Tam attorney to discuss your situation. For additional information on the Qui Tam process and what a Qui Tam lawyer can do to help, please click here.

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