Lawsuits resolved against alleged Pfizer marketing fraud

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.

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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 Bextra was withdrawn from the market in 2005.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.

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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.

According to a declaration from the DOJ, the Warner-Lambert company – which Pfizer acquired in 2000 – promotes Neurontin “even when scientific studies have shown it to be ineffective”.

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.

According to at the CDC, mRNA vaccines – which include Pfizer – have been “held to the same rigorous safety and efficiency standards like all other types of vaccines in the United States. “

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.

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