Pfilthy Pfizer Pfined

pfizer

I have friends who work as pharmaceutical sales reps and quite frankly, I’ve never gotten a good answer as to why the pharma industry is even allowed to push drugs on doctors or the general public at large, either with gifts, dinners or television commercials.

I am by no means anti the drug industry, I just get very uncomfortable with the possibility that a doctor may be prescribing a drug for reasons other than that it is the best possible drug for the patient.

Anyway, the Obama administration’s Justice Department has just fired a signal flare over the entire industry with its massive, record-breaking criminal fine against Pfizer (PFE) over it’s marketing activities.  I’d be surprised if the rest of the drugmakers don’t make big adjustments as a result of it.

From the AP via Yahoo Finance:
WASHINGTON (AP) — Federal prosecutors hit Pfizer Inc. with a record-breaking $2.3 billion in fines Wednesday and called the world’s largest drugmaker a repeating corporate cheat for illegal drug promotions that plied doctors with free golf, massages, and resort junkets.

Announcing the penalty as a warning to all drug manufacturers, Justice Department officials said the overall settlement is the largest ever paid by a drug company for alleged violations of federal drug rules, and the $1.2 billion criminal fine is the largest ever in any U.S. criminal case. The total includes $1 billion in civil penalties and a $100 million criminal forfeiture.

 
If we were to judge degrees of criminality by the size of the fine levied, then we’d have to conclude that Pfizer is the largest criminal entity in the history of the United States.  Now of course that isn’t true (AIG is). 

What is true is that Pfizer has settled a marketing corruption case 4 times this decade, is a repeat offender, and is so large that only a massive fine like this would actually have the power to act as a true deterrent.  Anything less may have just been chalked up by the industry as “a cost of doing business”.
 
$2.3 billion is no joke.
 
Now as far as the whole television commercial thing, can someone explain to me why drugmakers should be marketing directly to patients, who are powerless in terms of buying the product without a prescription?  This “ask your doctor” concept is ludicrous.  The day I suggest to my doctor what I should be taking is the day I decide I need a new doctor.
 
Working in one of the most heavily regulated industries on the planet.  I can’t mail a get well card to a client without getting a few layers of approval.  And while I like to think that managing money is important work, nothing I’m involved with is life or death or involves someone’s health.  It’s nice to see someone else get a taste of regulation once in awhile.
 
Hey Pfizer et al:  Take some of the billions of dollars from the marketing budget and maybe go cure something. 
 
Otherwise, the same diseases we had when I was born are the same diseases we will still be struggling with when I’m gone, no matter how many Super Bowl viewers hear about erectile dysfunction. 
 
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