If you commit a crime, you are expected to pay the price, whatever that may be. Fortunately for the pharmaceutical company, Pfizer, they were simply too large and powerful for them to actually make them pay the price. After Pfizer illegally marketed the drug Bextra, which was NOT safe to take in larger doses, they were caught having paid off doctors to endorse the medication and promote it.
“By April 2005, when Bextra was taken off the market, more than half of its $1.7 billion in profits had come from prescriptions written for uses the FDA had rejected.”
So, what do we do about this problem? Well clearly we should prosecute! So that’s what we do. However there is a minor problem. Pfizer, being a HUGE drug company, provides many jobs for the community as well as many medications of all sorts. If they prosecute and plead guilty, they will no longer be eligible to receive funds from the government from Medicare and Medicaid. This would cause a huge loss of jobs as well as hurting the people who use Pfizer provided medications who are also on Medicare or Medicaid. The solution? To charge a subsidiary of a subsidiary of a subsidiary of Pfizer. This way, that subsidiary, Pharmacia & Upjohn Co. Inc., can no longer provide drugs to the Medicare or Medicaid programs. Luckily, they never did in the first place and were only created JUST to plead guilty. Thus, the government gets a settlement from “Pharmacia & Upjohn Co. Inc.” in the amount of 1.2 billion dollars and Pfizer must now tell the government every doctor they pay to endorse their medication as well as what medication they endorsed. In all, Pfizer lost the equivalent of three months’ profit.
Many people I know are very upset that Pfizer won’t get in much trouble as a smaller drug company would, however, Pfizer is such a massive corporation here in the US and around the world that the economy of the US could not handle it if they had to lay off people and stop providing medicare or medicaid benefits to citizens.
This proves to be a major problem. The idea that they were able to create a company solely for the purpose of taking the blame for their wrongdoings is mildly concerning however. I would love to be able to commit a crime and have Joe the plumber take the wrap for it ;).
In the end, I find this to be an interesting compromise. It is clear that there are problems when major companies do something wrong and it is hard for us to deal with it. We can’t have a giant company destroyed or it would have a cascading effect. At the same time, we can’t let them get away with it! I think the penalty should be greater. Three months of profit is hardly a slap on the wrist for a company like Pfizer. We should find a monetary amount that is large enough to be a major hit for a company that is doing wrong without ruining them. We have to find a middle ground since a company like Pfizer can harm peoples lives with their drugs if they are not safe!