Pfizer's fall guy
You might think Pfizer paid a pretty hefty price last year when it agreed to $2.3 billion in fines for illegally marketing drugs like the dangerous painkiller Bextra.
It turns out the company got off easy... very easy.
By law, that settlement should have also prohibited Pfizer from doing business with Medicare and Medicaid--a restriction that could have killed the company.
But a CNN investigation found that Pfizer managed to do an end run around that law... and the feds actually helped.
Pfizer has a specially created subsidiary--a firm CNN said is essentially an "imaginary friend"--just to take the rap in cases like this one.
The subsidiary, Pharmacia & Upjohn Co. Inc., was created in 2007 just to take the fall in an earlier kickback case against a Pfizer-owned company. And last year, it was used again in the Bextra case.
So now, instead of Pfizer itself, Pharmacia & Upjohn Co. Inc. can't sell meds to Medicare and Medicaid--but since this shell corporation has never sold a single pill to begin with, it won't make a dime's bit of difference.
Federal officials told the news network they had no choice, because truly nailing Pfizer would actually damage the industry and hurt too many people--both innocent patients who rely on Pfizer meds and innocent workers employed by the company.
If that sounds like rubbish to you, that's because it is rubbish.
There are so many ways they could have handled this--and if all of them ultimately led to the failure of this company, so what? It's not like they've earned our trust over the years.
It's a company that's been in trouble time and again... and if they finally went too far, they should have paid the price. The feds could have created a very reasonable plan to slowly shut this company down.
During a transitional period, Americans could switch to competing treatments... and, as in any other failure, Pfizer's patents could be auctioned off--allowing another company to make these supposedly necessary meds.
And, in an ideal world, many of the people on Pfizer meds might use this as an opportunity to switch to non-drug alternatives or lifestyle changes.
In that case, sure, hundreds of Big Pharma jobs might be lost... but many of them could probably find a new line of work in the growing alternative health industry, where they could use real science, and not lawbreaking gimmicks, to heal patients.
Done right, the collapse of a drug giant could actually lead to millions of healthier Americans.
I'd say that's a pretty fair trade.
About the author
Edward Martin writes House Calls, a daily letter chronicling the most cutting-edge alternative methods for beating diabetes and cancer, to the latest FDA foul-ups and Big Pharma conspiracies.
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