With 2010 revenues of $67.8 billion and profits of $8.2 billion, Pfizer Inc. ranks #31 on the Fortune 500 and is the world’s largest pharmaceuticals corporation. Brand names include Viagra, Celebrex, Norvasc, and Lipitor. The company also manufactures animal care products such as Revolution, an anti-parasitic. In 2009, Pfizer acquired its rival Wyeth for 68 billion dollars. Wyeth’s over the counter brands included Advil, Centrum, Robitussin and ChapStick. The majority of its sales are conducted through the wholesale companies McKesson and Cardinal Health. Here is a complete listing of the Pfizer’s products:
Since 1989 Pfizer has contributed over $21 million to federal and state politicians, with George W. Bush and Barack Obama being the top recipients. And since 1999 the company has spent more than $105 million in lobbying on issues that have more to do with Pfizer’s wealth than America’s health.
In return for their political payola and lobbying investment, Pfizer has been awarded over $5 billion in U.S. government contracts over the past few years, mostly for drugs ordered by the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs:
At the same time Uncle Sam was handing billions of your tax dollars over to Pfizer, he was spending millions more investigating their illegal activities. As reported by the New York Times on 3 September 2009…
“The pharmaceutical giant Pfizer agreed to pay $2.3 billion to settle civil and criminal allegations that it had illegally marketed its painkiller Bextra, which has been withdrawn. It was the largest health care fraud settlement and the largest criminal fine of any kind ever… It was Pfizer’s fourth settlement over illegal marketing activities since 2002… The government charged that executives and sales representatives throughout Pfizer’s ranks planned and executed schemes to illegally market not only Bextra but also Geodon, an antipsychotic; Zyvox, an antibiotic; and Lyrica, which treats nerve pain. While the government said the fine was a record sum, the $2.3 billion fine amounts to less than three weeks of Pfizer’s sales. Much of the activities cited Wednesday occurred while Pfizer was in the midst of resolving allegations that it illegally marketed Neurontin, an epilepsy drug for which the company in 2004 paid a $430 million fine and signed a corporate integrity agreement – a companywide promise to behave. John Kopchinski, a former Pfizer sales representative whose complaint helped prompt the government’s Bextra case, said that company managers told him and others to dismiss concerns about the Neurontin case while pushing them to undertake similar illegal efforts on behalf of Bextra. ‘The whole culture of Pfizer is driven by sales, and if you didn’t sell drugs illegally, you were not seen as a team player,’ said Mr. Kopchinski, whose personal share of the Pfizer settlement is expected to exceed $50 million. Mr. Kopchinski left Pfizer in 2003. Altogether, six whistle-blowers will collect $102 million from the federal share of the settlement and more from states’ shares. Forty-nine states and the District of Columbia will collect $331 million, with New York State alone getting $66 million. Only South Carolina chose not to participate in the settlement… As news of the riches earned by whistle-blowers spread through the industry in recent years, scores of fraud cases have been filed by former drug sales representatives using a Civil War-era law that pays a bounty for fraud alerts. The cases charge that illegal drug marketing cost the federal Medicare and Medicaid program millions.”
Will a fine of only three week’s sales change the greedy corporate culture at Pfizer, or simply be viewed as a small price to pay for billions of dollars in profits annually from illegal operations, including crimes against humanity?
“Sidney Wolfe, director of Public Citizen’s Health Research Group, said the Pfizer settlement ‘may sound large, but it’s not enough to ensure drug companies will curb their bad behavior.’ Wolfe pointed out that the Pfizer agreement topped a landmark settlement set by Eli Lilly in January, when that company paid more than $500 million in criminal penalties for improper marketing of the antipsychotic drug Zyprexa. Five other major drug manufacturers logged smaller settlements over the past decade… ‘The U.S. pharmaceutical industry, long one of the most profitable in the country, with profits last year of close to $50 billion, has engaged in an unprecedented amount of criminal activity in the past decade,’ Wolfe said. ‘Unfortunately, the ever-escalating fines are unlikely to stop drug companies from continuing to bribe doctors because they represent just a fraction of drug company profits and no one has gone to jail.’”
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