Thursday, September 3, 2009

Record Breaking Pharm Settlement

The Obama administration is cracking down on health-care fraud, and federal prosecutors have already have their first mounted head: Pfizer, which agreed to a record $2.3 billion settlement this week. The Washington Post reports that Pfizer's Pharmacia & Upjohn subsidiary pleaded guilty to a felony charge for marketing anti-inflammatory drug Bextra for uses the FDA has not approved. Prosecutors also say the company gave doctor lavish trips, falsified records, and improperly financed articles promoting their pills. Pharmacia & Upjohn will pay $1.3 billion in fines and forfeits, the biggest criminal penalty in U.S. history, and Pfizer will pay an extra $1 billion to resolve civil cases connected to Bextra and three other medications.

Explaining Pfizer's steep penalty, one U.S. attorney called the company a "recidivist" lawbreaker. The world's largest drugmaker, he said, has entered into four settlements with the Justice Department over the past decade. Pfizer voluntarily withdrew Bextra from the market in 2005 amid concerns about its link to such health problems as strokes, heart attacks and blood clots in the lungs.

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