Recently we learned that the Department of Justice will fine Pfizer $2.3 billion in civil and criminal penalties for its illegal marketing of the drugs Bextra, Zyvox, Geodon and Lyrica. This is not only the largest penalty ever levied against a drug company. It is the largest penalty ever levied against any company in American history.
That is saying something.
Pfizer and its subsidiary entities -- the former Upjohn and Pharmacia -- not only promoted these drugs for uses that were not approved by the FDA. They also marketed the drugs for uses that were explicitly rejected by the FDA, primarily because of safety concerns. To the degree that patients were killed or injured as a result, Pfizer's off-label marketing scheme amounts to negligent homicide.
That is probably why Pfizer was compelled to plead guilty to felony charges, which is also unprecedented in such contexts. In most instances, companies plea-bargain to misdemeanor admissions, fines are levied, and that is the end of it.
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