This is the VOA Special English Economics Report.
world's largest drug company has agreed to pay almost two and a half billion
dollars for illegal marketing of medicines. The settlement between Pfizer and
the United States Justice Department was announced last week.
The settlement is the nation's largest ever in a case
of health care fraud. It also includes the largest criminal fine ever in any case
in the United States, more than one billion dollars. Pfizer agreed to pay
another billion for violations of a civil law, the False Claims Act. Pfizer, based
in New York, had sales last year of forty-eight billion dollars.
A Pfizer division, Pharmacia & Upjohn, agreed to
plead guilty to a criminal violation over the painkiller Bextra. Pfizer pushed
sales of Bextra for several uses unapproved by the government because of safety
concerns. It also pushed for use in unapproved amounts. Pfizer withdrew Bextra
from the market in two thousand five because of links to heart attacks and
also faced civil charges over Bextra as well as an anti-psychotic drug, Geodon;
an antibiotic, Zyvox; and an anti-epilepsy drug, Lyrica. Officials said Pfizer
paid health care providers to prescribe these medicines for conditions other
than the ones for which they are approved. This is called "off-label"
use of a drug.
Doctors are permitted to try off-label
uses to treat their patients. The idea is that a doctor might find other ways
that a drug is effective. But federal law bars drug companies from marketing
their products for unapproved uses.
Kathleen Sebelius is the secretary of health and human
KATHLEEN SEBELIUS: "This settlement is historic
not only because it's the most money taxpayers have ever recovered from a drug
company, but also because it includes the most comprehensive corporate
integrity agreement that a drug company has ever signed in the United States."
Under the agreement, doctors will have a way to report abuses
by Pfizer sales representatives. And officials said Pfizer will have to make
"detailed disclosures" on its Web site. Pfizer announced a plan in
February to publicly disclose its financial relationships with doctors, medical
organizations and patient groups.
this is not the company's first corporate integrity agreement with the
government. Pfizer has now been fined for illegal marketing four times since
two thousand two.
drugs represent only about one-tenth of all health care spending in the United
States. But fast-growing demand and prices have made them part of the debate
over health reform.
And that's the VOA Special English
Economics Report, written by Mario Ritter. I'm Bob Doughty.