Allegation: Pfizer sued for $ 2.3 billion for “corrupting doctors and suppressing unfavorable test results”
A viral social media post suggests Americans shouldn’t trust Pfizer – a leading producer of coronavirus vaccines – due to a 2009 lawsuit against the drug company.
April 26 Instagram post says, “Pfizer was sued for $ 2,300,000,000 in 2009 for ‘corrupting doctors and removing adverse test results.’
The caption reads: “And you still trust them ?? With your babies ???”
The post appears to refer to a $ 2.3 billion settlement by Pfizer in 2009, but it is misleading about the scope of the claims relating to the settlement.
Checking the facts:COVID-19 vaccines won’t make colds or flu ‘extremely deadly’
USA TODAY has contacted the poster for comment.
Pfizer has resolved allegations of corruption and illegal marketing of pain relievers
The post appears to refer to a settlement involving Pfizer in which the company pleaded guilty to a federal criminal charge relating to the marketing of four drugs. The company agreed to pay $ 2.3 billion in settlement.
The Pharmacia & Upjohn Company – a subsidiary of Pfizer – has agreed to plead guilty to a felony offense of the Food, Drugs and Cosmetics Act for having misidentified the analgesic Bextra “with the intention of defrauding or deceiving”, according to at the Ministry of Justice.
By law, a company must specify the uses of its product in the New drug request from the FDA and not to market a product in any other way after this point. The Ministry of Justice written in a press release that Pfizer “has promoted the sale of Bextra for several uses and strengths that the FDA has specifically refused to approve due to safety concerns.”
The company paid a criminal fine of $ 1.195 billion. Pfizer also lost an additional $ 105 million. Bextra was withdrawn from the market in 2005.
The Justice Department also said in 2009 that Pfizer paid $ 1 billion to resolve allegations of civil wrongdoing under the False Claims Act that the company was illegally promoting Bextra and three other medicines: the antipsychotic Geodon, the antibiotic Zyvox and the antiepileptic Lyrica.
The company also resolved allegations that it paid bribes – an illegal payment in exchange for preferential treatment or compensation – to healthcare providers to encourage them to prescribe the drugs.
Pfizer has denied the civil claims, except acknowledging improper promotion of Zyvox, Reuters reported in 2009.
The company’s general counsel at the time said he regretted “some actions of the past” but was proud of the steps taken to strengthen its internal controls, Reuters also reported.
Pfizer did not admit the wrongdoing as part of the settlement.
But none of those claims were about suppressing evidence of adverse events, as the claim claimed, a key topic as some Americans continue to question the safety and effectiveness of vaccines.
Separate trial alleged removal of adverse effects, manipulation of study
Allegations of adverse events surfaced in an earlier trial.
In 2004, Pfizer agreed to pay $ 430 million in a DOJ settlement and pleaded guilty to two violations of the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act for marketing the drug Neurontin, also known as gabapentin, for unapproved purposes.
Two examples include the promotion of Neurontin as the sole drug for epileptic seizures – even after the FDA rejection of solo use – as well as the marketing of the drug as being effective in treating bipolar disease.
According to New York Times report, in 2008, experts who reviewed company documents for plaintiffs against Pfizer concluded that the company had manipulated studies to support the use of Neurontin. One of the experts, Dr Kay Dickersin of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, said the documents set out “a publication strategy intended to convince doctors of the effectiveness of Neurontin and to distort or suppress the negative results. . “
In a statement, Pfizer mentionned he “fully cooperated with the government to resolve this issue,” adding that the manipulation did not involve Pfizer’s practices or employees and took place before Pfizer acquired Warner-Lambert.
In 2014, Pfizer agreed to pay an additional $ 325 million to resolve the claims in the decade-long civil lawsuit.
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Pfizer did not admit the wrongdoing as part of the settlement.
Pfizer Coronavirus Vaccine
The suspicion-fueled Instagram post’s claims have gone viral at a time when misinformation and hesitation around coronavirus vaccines is particularly prevalent.
Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine was first authorized for use in people 16 years of age and over under the Emergency Use Clearance from the FDA in December 2020. This came after tests that involved more than 40,000 people.
Following emergency use clearance from the FDA, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Immunization Practices Advisory Committee voted to recommend the Pfizer vaccine. The committee also voted to recommend the Moderna and Johnson & johnson vaccines.
Evidence of clinical tests shows that the Pfizer vaccine is 95% effective in preventing COVID-19.
In one April press releasePfizer has confirmed “high efficacy and no serious safety concerns” following a study update for the COVID-19 vaccine.
Pfizer is now seeking full and consistent clearance for its vaccine. On May 12, the CDC approved a recommendation for adolescents aged 12 to 15 to get vaccinated.
Our rating: partly false
We assess this claim that Pfizer was sued for $ 2.3 billion for “corrupting doctors and removing adverse test results” PARTLY FALSE, as this claim confuses and distorts the elements of two different cases. Pfizer has settled various lawsuits involving allegations of bribery, fraudulent marketing and data manipulation. The $ 2.3 billion was the full amount in a settlement involving Pfizer, but not in a case related to suppressing adverse events. This allegation arose in an earlier case that began before Pfizer acquired the affected company.
Pfizer has not admitted wrongdoing in its regulations. Additionally, the caption of the post implies that due to previous lawsuits Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccines may not be safe, which is not true.
Our sources of fact-checking:
- US Department of Justice, September 2, 2009, Justice Department Announces Largest Healthcare Fraud Settlement in History
- US Department of Justice, accessed May 19, Pfizer Settlement Agreement
- CNN, April 7, 2005, Pfizer withdraws Bextra from the market
- Legal Information Institute, accessed May 19 21 US Code CHAPTER 9 – FEDERAL FOOD, DRUGS AND COSMETICS ACT
- US Food and Drug Administration, June 10, 2019, New Drug Request (NDA)
- The New York Times, May 14, 2004, Pfizer to pay $ 430 million to promote drugs to doctors
- US Department of Justice, May 13, 2004, WARNER-LAMBERT TO PAY 430 MILLION DOLLARS TO RESOLVE CRIMINAL AND CIVIL HEALTH RESPONSIBILITY FOR NON-LABEL PROMOTION
- Pfizer, accessed May 19 2000: PFIZER JOINS FORCES AT WARNER-LAMBERT
- California Healthline Daily Edition, May 14, 2004, Pfizer agrees to settle Neurontin whistleblower trial for $ 430 million
- The New York Times, October 8, 2008, Experts conclude studies manipulated by Pfizer
- Reuters, June 2, 2014, Pfizer to pay $ 325 million in Neurontin settlement
- Fierce Pharma, June 2, 2014, Pfizer adds an additional $ 325 million to Neurontin’s settlement tally. Total? $ 945 million
- PolitiFact, December 11, 2020, Two participants in the vaccine trial have died, but the FDA has not linked their deaths to the vaccine
- Pfizer, April 1 PFIZER AND BIONTECH CONFIRM HIGH EFFICIENCY AND NO SERIOUS SAFETY ISSUES UP TO SIX MONTHS AFTER SECOND DOSE IN TOPLINE ANALYSIS LANDMARK COVID-19 VACCINE STUDY UPDATE
- USA TODAY, May 12 CDC panel recommends Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine for children as young as 12
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