Pfizer Caught Engaging In Illegal Marketing Practices & Assessed Billions In Criminal Convictions


    by Arjun Walia, Collective Evolution:

    • The Facts:A paper published in 2010 by Robert G. Evans, PhD, Emeritus Professor, Vancouver School of Economics, UBC titled “Tough on Crime? Pfizer and the CIHR” outlines the immoral, unethical and criminal activities of Pfizer up until 2010.
    • Reflect On:Is it hard to see why many doctors, scientists and citizens are hesitant to use products from this company? Is it hard to see why so many have lost their trust in these companies and government when it comes to doing what’s best for our health?

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    What Happened: Pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, recently known for their development of a COVID-19 vaccine, has been caught multiple times engaging in unethical and immoral behaviour. This is no secret, yet over the years this fact continues to be brushed under the rug and remain mostly unacknowledged by mainstream media. Since mainstream media has such a large influence over the perception of the masses, it’s no wonder why so many people respond to the word “big pharma” with “conspiracy theory.” If one takes a closer look it’s not hard to see why there is actually great cause for concern.

    There are many examples to choose from when bringing about awareness to unethical behaviour by big pharmaceutical companies, one comes from a paper published in 2010 by Robert G. Evans, PhD, Emeritus Professor, Vancouver School of Economics, UBC.  The paper, titled “Tough on Crime? Pfizer and the CIHR”  is accessible through the National Library of Medicine (PubMed), and it outlines how Pfizer has been a “habitual offender” constantly engaging in illegal and criminal activities. This particular paper points out that from 2002 to 2010, Pfizer has been “assessed $3 billion in criminal convictions, civil penalties and jury awards” and has set records for both criminal fines and total penalties. Keep in mind we are now in 2021.

    Evans provides a number of examples, one coming from September of 2009 when the company settled a number of charges for a total of $2.3 billion (O’Reilly and Capaccio 2009). This particular settlement set a new record for a criminal fine as they pleaded guilty to one count of a felony and misbranding of a pharmaceutical. This means that multiple fraudulent marketing practices were used to promote various drugs. In this case, the criminal charges focused on the “illegal promotion” of several Pfizer brands – Bextra (valdecoxib, a pain medication), Geodon (an atypical antipsychotic), Zyvox (linezolid, an antibiotic) and Lyrica (a seizure medication). These were promoted for uses that were not approved by the FDA and there were also kickbacks to physicians (meaning they got paid for prescribing these drugs).

    This was by no means Pfizer’s first offence. In 2007, Pfizer subsidiary Pharmacia & Upjohn paid $34 million and pleaded guilty to paying kickbacks for formulary placement of its drugs and entered into a Deferred Prosecution Agreement for off label distribution of Genotropin, its brand for the human growth hormone somatropin. In 2004  Pfizer subsidiary Warner–Lambert pleaded guilty and paid more than $430 million to resolve criminal charges and civil liability arising from its fraudulent marketing practices with respect to Neurontin, its brand for the drug gabapentin. Originally developed for the treatment of epilepsy, Neurontin was illegally promoted off-label for the treatment of various forms of neurological pain, and in particular for migraine. -Evans (Full paper)

    Evans goes on to explain how in 2010 Pfizer was ordered to pay $142 million US in damages for fraudulently marketing an anti-seizure drug called gabapentin, which was marketed under the name Neurontin. Pfizer was caught “fraudulently” marketing the drug “and promoted it for unapproved use.” It was discovered that the drug was promoted by the drug company as a treatment for pain, migraines and bipolar disorder, even though it wasn’t effective in treating these conditions and was actually toxic.

    The trials forced the company to release all of its studies on the drug, including the ones it kept hidden. A new analysis of those unpublished trials by the Therapeutics Initiative suggests that gabapentin works for one out of every six or eight people who use it, at best. The review also concluded that one in eight people had an adverse reaction to the drug.

    It’s quite obvious why the company never wants to go to trial and always ends up paying large sums to settle. Apart from bribing and paying physicians and other medical professionals, the paper points out that they dished out millions of dollars to more than 200 academic medical centers and other research groups for clinical trials. A great quote comes to mind here from Arnold Seymour Relman (1923-2014), Harvard Professor of medicine and former Editor in Chief of the New England Medical Journal.

    The medical profession is being bought by the pharmaceutical industry, not only in terms of the practice of medicine, but also in terms of teaching and research. The academic institutions of this country are allowing themselves to be the paid gents of the pharmaceutical industry. I think it’s disgraceful.”(source)

    Evans outlines another interesting point which shows why “justice” is never really done and these companies always seem free to engage in this type of criminal behaviour.

    A corporation may treat both criminal and civil penalties as simply business expenses, to be weighed against the revenues earned from illegal behaviour. But human beings can be put in jail, and that is a whole other matter. Conceivably, convicting corporate executives of criminal behaviour and sentencing them to terms of imprisonment might be a more effective deterrent to the “repeat offender” behaviour demonstrated by Pfizer.

    These companies are also protected from any harm that comes as a result of their vaccines. For example, the Canadian government has announced that it’s implementing a pan-Canadian no-fault vaccine injury support program for all Health Canada approved vaccines. This means that pharmaceutical companies cannot be held liable for any vaccine injuries, and compensation from injuries do not come from the company, but from taxpayer money instead. It’s similar to programs many countries already have in place, in the United States it’s called the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Compensation Act. These measures shield and protect pharmaceutical companies and make many of their products, including vaccines, a liability free product. In the US alone nearly $4 billion has been paid out to families of vaccine injured children, and a number of studies are calling into question their safety.

    In all of these cases mentioned by Evans, the corporation itself, ie., its shareholders – incurred the financial penalties and the executives involved were presumed innocent. Evans states, “In the absence of such personal liability, both criminal and civil penalties appear to be, to Pfizer at least, a business expense worth incurring. You have to spend money to make money.”

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