Today there was a lawsuit settlement reached between Pfizer and the U.S. Department of Justice in regard to marketing practices that the company used in promoting Bextra. Phizer settlement also includes and agreement with attorneys general in 42 states and the District of Columbia to settle another lawsuit Geodon.
Under the Under the DOJ vs Pfizer settlement the company will pay a previously disclosed total of $2.3 billion ($1.0 billion in civil payments related to a number of medicines, and a $1.3 billion criminal penalty related only to Bextra), and a Pfizer subsidiary, Pharmacia & Upjohn Company, Inc., will plead guilty to one criminal count of violating the U.S. Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act related to its past promotion of Bextra. A portion of the civil payments will be distributed to 49 states and the District of Columbia pursuant to agreements with each state’s Medicaid division, reported today the drug maker in its press release.
How can this be interpreted? WSJ writes that the Pfizer lawsuit settlement shows that the company has illegally promoted the sale of Bextra and other medicines for unapproved uses. Today's news is the largest ever settlement that a drug maker company is accused of wrongdoing.
In the United States doctors prescribe medications that are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for a particular use, stated on the label. However, today's settlement shows that Pfizer "encouraged doctors to prescribe Bextra for off-label uses such as acute pain and promoted the antipsychotic Geodon for the unapproved use by children," writes WSJ.
While Pfizer had removed the drug voluntarily in 2005, this is the third time that the company had to sign a "corporate integrity" agreement pledging to clean up its drug-marketing practices. It has signed two similar agreements on integrity in 2002 and 2004 over Liptor and Neurontin.
It is good that the Pfizer settlement includes a guilty plea, but not good that the company can't control its practices about integrity draining the investor funds into these types of settlements that I am sure the shareholders themselves are not happy about. We hope that this will be a good lesson for all the pharmaceutical companies learn something from this lawsuit and Phrizer's settlement and put patient health way before the corporate profitability.
Written by Armen Hareyan
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