Saturday, April 03, 2010

Congratulations, you've been Pfizered!

Patients, Americans, Consumers, lend me your ears. . . federal prosecutor Mike Loucks comes not to praise Pfizer, he comes to tell us we're Pfucked.

According to Loucks, Pfizer is just too big to be penalized in any truly significant way because the appropriate and legally prescribed penalties would not only exclude the company from Medicaid and Medicare, they would lead to the company's collapse and:
"a lot of the people who work for the company who haven't engaged in criminal activity would get hurt"
Instead of punishing the company in a way that would send a message that pharma companies must remain in compliance with federal regulations, Loucks has sent a completely different message that companies should pretend to take regulations seriously but, for a miniscule percentage of their profits, they should just keep conducting business as usual. In Pfizer's case, what seems to be an incredibly huge fine is, in fact, only about 14% of the revenue from sales of the drugs that were marketed illegally between 2001 & 2008 or, to put it in real perspective, just a little over 1% of the company's profits between 2004 & 2008. Oh yeah, did I forget to mention that Pfizer was breaking the law while already under a Corporate Integrity Agreement from their acquisition of Warner-Lambert?

Instead of taking punitive action that would encourage compliance, the federal government has decided that Pfizer was just too big to nail, hitting them with a headline making fine that had no negative impact of any significance and then allowed Pfizer to get even bigger and more immune to penalties by approving the company's acquisition of another huge pharma company (Wyeth). Heck, they also allowed two other huge companies with dubious histories (Merck and Schering) to merge as well.

So, what about all those jobs that would be saved by limiting punitive action against Pfizer? As well all know, Pfizer has been able to keep some people employed (FWIW, the layoffs only include those directly employed by the company - parts of Wyeth used contracting organizations to provide a large percentage of the staff for many of their departments, so there are hundreds to thousands more folks who have been or will be laid off but not included in the official count).

There are ways to punish Pfizer (and other big Pharma companies) that would actually be better for the economy, healthcare & patients:
  1. prosecute executives who knew or should have known what was going on and have them debarred
  2. debar any person directly involved in this fraud or other overtly non compliant activity
  3. force the break up of these huge companies into smaller/mid-sized companies who can't use they "we're too big to fail" and/or patients will be hurt if the company is debarred excuse
    • this will benefit patients/consumers and the economy by forcing more competition in drug development, more competitive pricing and employ more people to do the work
  4. Force the sale of the company's drugs to other firms or negate the patent on those drugs to open the door to generic competition and ensure patients have access to these medications

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