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Pfizer to Pay $60 Million To Settle US Charges of Bribing Doctors Abroad

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Washington, DCOne of the country's largest pharmaceutical companies has agreed to a multi-million dollar settlement on charges by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) that its overseas subsidiaries engaged in the bribing of doctors and other health officials to increase sales of their products.

The New York Times (8/7/12) reported yesterday that Pfizer would pay a $45 million penalty. Further, the Justice Department also announced that Pfizer HCP Corporation would have to shell out $15 million to settle similar charges, according to the report.

"Pfizer subsidiaries in several countries had bribery so entwined in their sales culture that they offered points and bonus programs to improperly reward foreign officials who proved to be their best customers," said Kara Brockmeyer, chief of the unit of the SEC enforcement division, in a statement. "These charges illustrate the pitfalls that exist for companies that fail to appropriately monitor potential risks in their global operations."

The charges were bought under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and relate to activities that appear to have widespread support on foreign shores by indigenous cultures, regardless of the legality. Specifically, according to the report, the activities are alleged to have occurred as far back as 2001, and involved the aforementioned bribes and payments to doctors.

In various countries, doctors are employees of the government. Thus, such payments are considered illegal under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which forbids such payments to government officials.

The activities under scrutiny include a point program created by Pfizer China and extended to physicians and health care workers that could be redeemed for cell phones and tea sets based upon the number of prescriptions written for the sponsoring pharmaceutical's product.

Wyeth subsidiaries in China, Pakistan and Indonesia extended such gifts in kind as well as cash payments to government physicians who recommended Wyeth nutritional products. It is alleged that fake invoices were procured in order to hide the illegal payments.

Pfizer, which acquired Wyeth in 2009, noted the activity was duly reported to federal authorities after Pfizer discovered improper payments made by employees of a Croatia-based affiliate Pfizer had recently acquired. Results of an ongoing investigation by Pfizer, once the improprieties were discovered, kept regulators apprised on an ongoing basis, according to Pfizer.

The company noted a similar response once discovering improper activities amongst some international subsidiaries of Wyeth after acquiring the firm.

"The actions which led to this resolution were disappointing, but the openness and speed with which Pfizer voluntarily disclosed and addressed them reflects our true culture and the real value we place on integrity and meeting commitments," noted Amy Schulman, executive vice president and general counsel for Pfizer, in a news release summarized in the New York Times. "We expect every colleague across Pfizer to adhere to the highest standards of conduct, and we will continue to hold ourselves and our colleagues accountable for maintaining these standards."

Pharmaceutical companies continue to be increasingly active in international markets—through the manufacture of drugs at less cost than similar production in the US, and the sale and marketing of pharmaceuticals into emerging global markets where citizens have a newfound capacity to afford such products. The capacity to resist an entrenched culture of corruption in several countries has been seen to elude pharmaceutical officials on the ground. The Times reports that federal prosecutors together with securities regulators are continuing to crack down on the illicit and improper marketing and sale of drugs and medical devices in foreign countries.

The combined penalty will cost Pfizer $60 million.

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READER COMMENTS

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To settle US Charges,Sounds like the unitid states snaps there fingers gets a chunk of dough ,from phizer,But the people who took chantix Who cant hardly put a case together becuse there brains have turned to mush.Cant get anything !!I know my whole Life went down the toilet After taking It for five days.. But It was all Ignored at the VA And my va rep.didnt even believe me You can also take a look at the fda In the years that drug was approved ..There was no warning on the drug In 07 when I got It.. 60 mill is like 6 dollors To phizer

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