What's the most dishonest company in America? Tough call – but I've got 2.3 billion reasons to put Pfizer at the top of the list.
Pfizer, biggest of all the Big Pharma kingpins, was hit with a record $2.3 billion fine – the heftiest fine ever levied on a drug company, and the largest settlement ever in any U.S. criminal case.
"Criminal" is one of the nicer words I'd use for them.
The feds say these crooks paid off doctors with free golf, junkets at fancy resorts and massage sessions to promote their meds, including an effort to get them to prescribe a dangerous drug for an off-label use at an unapproved extra-high dose.
While the case revolved around a number of meds, most of the fines centered around the painkiller Bextra, a drug so disastrous it was ultimately pulled from the market.
Bextra was approved for menstrual cramps and arthritis. Studies had shown that when it came to other kinds of agony, like acute pain and surgical pain, Bextra was no better than ibuprofen – but with far worse side effects.
None of that mattered to Pfizer. The company's sales team told docs that this dangerous med could be used at high doses for all kinds of pain. Never mind that the risks to the heart, skin and kidney grew worse as the dose increased.
Doctors were so busy pulling treats from the Big Pharma cookie jar that they went along with this dangerous scheme.
The U.S. Justice Department says that even as the company negotiated the settlement, they continued to engage in the very same chicanery that led to the fines in the first place.
And here's what's truly amazing: It's the company's fourth big settlement since 2002. It's not that Pfizer doesn't get the message – they just don't give a hoot. Fines and penalties are just another line on the budget.
To them, $2.3 billion is nothing when a med like Viagra can take in $5 billion a year alone. In fact, Pfizer sells $2.3 billion in drugs every three weeks. That's like docking a wealthy corporate crook just three weeks pay for raiding trust funds.
It sounds like a lot to us – but it was worth it to him.