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Healthy Skepticism Library item: 20256

Warning: This library includes all items relevant to health product marketing that we are aware of regardless of quality. Often we do not agree with all or part of the contents.

 

Publication type: Magazine

Harvey K
Pfizer Includes Foreign Corrupt Practices Act Violations in Its Arsenal of Illegal Activities
Worst Pills, Best Pills 2012 Sep
https://www.worstpills.org/login.cfm?redirected=1&page=/member/newsletter.cfm&qString=n%5Fid%3D812


Full text:

The massive U.S.-based international pharmaceutical company Pfizer, until
very recently, held the record for the largest criminal and civil penalty
ever paid by any drug company for violating laws concerning illegal
promotion of drugs for unapproved uses and overcharging the U.S. government
for drugs purchased through federal programs such as Medicaid. The Pfizer
record — $2.3 billion, paid in September 2009 — was recently eclipsed by
$3 billion in criminal and civil penalties paid by GlaxoSmithKline this July
for many of the same kinds of illegal activities.

But Pfizer has not neglected its illegal money-making activities in other
parts of the world. In an agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice
(DOJ), announced Aug. 7, 2012, Pfizer H.C.P., a wholly owned subsidiary of
Pfizer, was penalized $15 million for paying more than $2 million in bribes
to government officials in Bulgaria, Croatia, Kazakhstan and Russia —
actions in violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA, which bars
publicly traded companies from bribing officials in other countries to get
or retain business). The company’s profits from this activity amounted to
more than $7 million.

Pfizer paid an additional $45 million to settle other similar FCPA
violations. Countries in which those illegal activities occurred included
China and Italy.

“Corrupt pay-offs to foreign officials in order to secure lucrative
contracts creates an inherently uneven marketplace and puts honest companies
at a disadvantage,” said FBI Assistant Director James McJunkin in the DOJ
statement. “Those that attempt to make these illegal backroom deals to
influence contract procurement can expect to be investigated by the FBI and
appropriately held responsible for their actions.”

Hospital administrators, members of regulatory and purchasing committees and
other health care professionals were among those who benefited from
Pfizer’s payouts. The modes of Pfizer’s influence peddling included sham
consulting contracts, exclusive distributorships, and improper travel and
cash payments.

Not content with record-setting violations of laws in this country, Pfizer
and other pharmaceutical companies also attempt to illegally influence
officials in other countries to push more sales of their drugs.

This lawlessness will stop only if it is no longer considered an acceptable
part of companies’ business models — in the sense that they usually come
out ahead financially, even with the penalties, and that it is rare, if it
ever occurs, that company officials are jailed for their criminal
activities. The need for change is clear.

 

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Cases of wilful misrepresentation are a rarity in medical advertising. For every advertisement in which nonexistent doctors are called on to testify or deliberately irrelevant references are bunched up in [fine print], you will find a hundred or more whose greatest offenses are unquestioning enthusiasm and the skill to communicate it.

The best defence the physician can muster against this kind of advertising is a healthy skepticism and a willingness, not always apparent in the past, to do his homework. He must cultivate a flair for spotting the logical loophole, the invalid clinical trial, the unreliable or meaningless testimonial, the unneeded improvement and the unlikely claim. Above all, he must develop greater resistance to the lure of the fashionable and the new.
- Pierre R. Garai (advertising executive) 1963