“Pfizer, the world's largest pharmaceutical company, was caught illegally marketing Bextra, a painkiller that was taken off the market in 2005 because of safety concerns.
When the criminal case was announced last fall, federal officials touted their prosecution as a model for tough, effective enforcement,” CNN reported.
In reality, however, a CNN Special Investigation found that Pfizer was actually “too big to nail.”
Why? As CNN reported:
“Because any company convicted of a major health care fraud is automatically excluded from Medicare and Medicaid. Convicting Pfizer on Bextra would prevent the company from billing federal health programs for any of its products. It would be a corporate death sentence.
So Pfizer and the feds cut a deal. Instead of charging Pfizer with a crime, prosecutors would charge a Pfizer subsidiary, Pharmacia & Upjohn Co. Inc. … [This] subsidiary is nothing more than a shell company whose only function is to plead guilty.”
By now you are probably used to hearing about the drug companies’ latest scandals. It happens so often that it’s not exactly news when a company like Pfizer gets slapped on the wrist for illegally promoting a drug for off-label unapproved uses or other frauds.
But this story, which was revealed by CNN’s Special Investigations Unit, is far from routine.
In fact, it’s one of the most incredible cases of fraud that I’ve heard … and it was given a great giant nod of approval by none other than the U.S. federal government.
Blatant PR Campaign to Increase Bextra Profits … at Any Expense
Pfizer brought their painkiller Bextra to the market in 2001. The FDA approved the drug, despite the fact that it was associated with an increased risk of stroke and heart attacks, but only for treating arthritis and menstrual cramps.
So Pfizer, not wanting to miss out on billions of dollars of profits at stake, decided to go on a rampant promotional campaign to sell the drug for off-label uses, namely for treating pain after surgical procedures. They not only instructed their sales reps to market Bextra to doctors in this way, but they directly paid hundreds of doctors to give lectures touting Bextra’s benefits.
According to CNN, Lewis Morris, chief counsel to the inspector general at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, said:
“They [Pfizer] pushed the envelope so far past any reasonable interpretation of the law that it's simply outrageous."
In 2005, when Bextra was pulled from the market due to its increased risks of heart attack and stroke, about half of its $1.7 billion in profits were due to off-label uses that were not approved.
The Feds Cut a Deal with Pfizer
Pfizer did end up getting prosecuted for its fraudulent marketing spree … but their sentence was a mere slap on the wrist. And you won’t hear Pfizer being charged with any crime, because it was actually Pharmacia & Upjohn Co. Inc, a Pfizer subsidiary, that took the rap.
This was not due to an oversight or a smooth move on Pfizer’s part … it was the result of a deal made between Pfizer and federal prosecutors. The feds essentially let Pfizer off the hook so their products could continue to flow through Medicare and Medicaid.
As CNN wrote:
“ … Any company convicted of a major health care fraud is automatically excluded from Medicare and Medicaid. Convicting Pfizer on Bextra would prevent the company from billing federal health programs for any of its products. It would be a corporate death sentence.
Prosecutors said that excluding Pfizer would most likely lead to Pfizer's collapse, with collateral consequences: disrupting the flow of Pfizer products to Medicare and Medicaid recipients, causing the loss of jobs including those of Pfizer employees who were not involved in the fraud, and causing significant losses for Pfizer shareholders.”
So rather than sentencing Pfizer for the massive fraud and deception they carried out with no regard for patients’ health, and letting the company crumble as it should have, the feds decided to protect them.
They allowed Pfizer’s “imaginary friend” Pharmacia & Upjohn to take the conviction, even though the latter company had never sold any drugs. As CNN found, “the subsidiary is nothing more than a shell company whose only function is to plead guilty.”
So Pfizer got off scot-free -- other than a fine that amounted to three months of profits -- had little damage to their reputation and still sells their drugs through federally funded programs.
You Simply Can’t Trust the Government to Keep You Safe
If you are still under the impression that agencies like the FDA are looking out for your safety, it’s time to open your eyes. As in this latest case with Pfizer and Bextra, the federal government has a long history of siding with, and protecting, the drug companies.
It is no surprise when you consider that the drug companies have the largest political lobby and that a job with the FDA is frequently a revolving door with the drug companies. It is very common for many high ranking FDA officials to get lucrative consulting positions with the drug companies after they quit.
The converse is also very common. They can get paid millions before the go to the FDA, like the current commissioner of the FDA Margaret Hamburg did with Henry Schein.
Another case in point, occurred last year when President Obama declared the swine flu outbreak a national emergency, and federal health agencies urged Americans to run out and get vaccinated, or else? The swine flu pandemic is now being called one of the greatest medicine scandals of the century … and it’s another prime example of the partnership between the government and the pharmaceutical industry.
Fortunately, more people are waking up to the illusion and deception of the drug industry as a whole, and starting to clearly see the truth.
The public is correct in their conclusion that drug companies manipulate or suppress negative clinical trials, promote their toxic products for unapproved uses, and focus on developing drugs that are no better than older ones.
Physicians must also, en masse, come to the realization that drug reps cannot be trusted. This may be one of the most difficult areas to change, as the pharmaceutical industry has devised a highly effective system of indoctrination and very specific psychological techniques to manipulate physicians.
Doctors usually believe they are immune to persuasion tactics, and drug reps know just how important it is to maintain that illusion -- which is why it works so well.
Consider for a moment the in-depth report published in both The New England Journal of Medicine and PLoS Medicine, which admitted that pharmaceutical sales reps are trained in tactics that are on par with some of the most potent brainwashing techniques used throughout the world!
The idea that reps provide some kind of valuable, informative service to physicians is total fiction, created and perpetuated by the drug industry, to keep this deadly, but profitable, scheme going.
So until real change takes place, please don't risk your money or your life on a paradigm designed to profit from your ill health. Take control of your health by adopting natural lifestyle strategies that will promote your body’s natural healing abilities without the need for the drug companies’ latest creations.