Imagine, if you will, an industry that is hated even more than government. Within that industry, there is a corporation that has a reputation so low that even among their peers, they were ranked as the worst in 2016, 2017, and 2018. Now imagine you are told if you do not let that company inject an experimental drug into you, using a never before tried delivery system, you will lose your livelihood, freedom, and possibly your life. You are not in the twilight zone. It is 2021 and that corporation is Pfizer.
I will be detailing just some of their exploits over the course of this series. I do not know how many articles it will take. There is a lot of ground to cover. For now, let’s begin with the abridged view of the legal history of Pfizer. These are just a handful of their many lawsuits, but hopefully it will provide you, my dear reader, with some context as to who we are dealing with.
Disclaimer: Not all of the cases have been fully litigated; some of the outcomes are unknown. In the majority of cases, Pfizer alleges no wrongdoing even when they pay out a hefty settlement. I’ll leave it for you to decide if this is true.
There have been many lawsuits put forward against Pfizer’s Ibuprofen product, Advil. While some seem relatively frivolous, like complaints about deceptive packaging, most seem to revolve around severe adverse reactions, such as Stevens-Johnson Syndrome or Toxic Epidermal Necrosis. One such case involved a teenager that had severe blistering over 35% of his body, resulting in essentially no skin on his face, neck, scalp, trunk, back, buttocks, arms, and legs. As a result, the Plaintiff was left permanently disfigured and partially blind. Pfizer’s motion to dismiss the case resulted in a manufacturing defect claim being dismissed without prejudice; however, their motion to dismiss the claim of willful and wanton negligence was denied. Unfortunately, I have been unable to find the resulting outcome of this case, which suggests that there may have been an out of court settlement.
A lawsuit was filed to ban high doses of Aricept, a drug for Alzheimers, due to harmful and potentially fatal side effects. The allegations involved the drug failing to provide a higher level of efficacy at higher doses or warning labels that higher doses lead to more severe adverse events. This lawsuit did fail, but it raised serious questions as to whether the FDA was colluding with the drug industry rather than protecting public health.
BEXTRA, GEODON, ZYVOX, AND LYRICA
As part of one of the most high-profile pharmaceutical lawsuits of all time, Pfizer was given a criminal fine of $1.195 billion for promoting the off-label use of Bextra. The settlement also involved Pfizer paying a further $1 billion in civil damages and penalties to federal health care programs for the submission of false claims. $102 million of the federal share of the settlement was given to six whistleblowers who were fired for raising concerns over the marketing of the drug. Firing whistleblowers; sound familiar?
In 2010, a Wikileaks cable revealed that Pfizer engaged in blackmail to avoid paying out a $75 million settlement in Nigeria. More on that settlement when discussing Trovan below.
BLUE CROSS BLUE SHIELD
BCBS sued Pfizer to recoup payments overpaid for Bextra. This lawsuit alleged that Pfizer organized conferences for up to 5000 doctors at Carribean resorts where they lavished them with gifts, events, and provided them a $2000 stipend.
Pfizer paid $60.2 million dollars for violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. Bribes were paid to government officials in Russia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Kazakhstan, Serbia, Czech Republic, China and Italy. This included the company entering into a deferred prosecution agreement in order to avoid prosecution if it meets certain conditions (i. e., probation). In 2020, Pfizer disclosed in its earning reports that they had seperate run-ins with the SEC’s foreign bribery unit and the justice department in the previous two years for its operations in Russia and China.
CELEBREX, BEXTRA, AND LYRICA
In 2012, Pfizer paid $450 million to Brigham Young University after the university alleged that the company cheated them out of $9.7 billion in royalties for the creation of the drug. Furthermore, in 2016 Pfizer paid out $486 million in a case where they were accused of causing big losses to shareholders by concealing safety risks associated with Celebrex, Bextra and Lyrica.
In 2013, Pfizer spent $273 million resolving over 2000 lawsuits related to its smoking cessation drug Chantix. Side effects of the drug seem to include a range of issues, such as suicidal tendencies, cancer, heart-disease, strokes, seizures, and various other adverse events.
Thousands of lawsuits have been filed over depo-testosterone. One Plaintiff accused Pfizer of “disease mongering by downplaying the risks of the drug and exaggerating its benefits”. It should be noted that Pfizer has been relatively successful in fighting off these lawsuits thus far.
Dozens of lawsuits have been filed over the anti-depressent Effexor tending to allege adverse events including miscarriages, serious birth defects, and suicidal tendencies. However, these cases were closed in 2016 by George Bush appointed judge Cynthia Rufe.
There are a growing number of lawsuits over the blood thinner Eliquis with adverse events allegedly including excessive bleeding, trial cover-ups, and questionable claims. I have not found any lawsuits that have been resolved.
Pfizer settled a lawsuit for deceptive marketing over a fradulent co-pay scheme in New York that misled consumers as to the price they would pay for the drug. They paid out $200,000 to consumers and $500,000 in penalties, fees, and costs. Other states have also received similar settlements for fradulent co-pay marketing.
In 2009, Pfizer paid $33 million for unfair and deceptive marketing practices for its anti-psychotic drug Geodon.
Back in 1992, Pfizer agreed to create of fund of between $80-130 million for defective heart valves that were said to have resulted in 300 deaths.
INLYTA, SUTENT, AND TIKOSYN
Pfizer paid $23.85 million to settle a co-pay scheme that used a third-party to “saddle Medicare with extra costs”. The company was again put on a 5-year probation meant to ensure that their arrangements and interactions with third parties were compliant with the law.
There have been thousands of lawsuits against the cholesterol medication Lipitor. Most of these cases allege that the drug causes type 2 diabetes, which is borne out by scientific research; however, many of the cases were summarily dismissed by Barrack Obama appointed judge Richard Gergel with questionable reasoning.
LYRICA AND ZYVOX
A 2012 settlement for $43 million for the misleading marketing of these drugs involved the company using incentive plans to physicians in order promote the use of these drugs. There are also allegations that Lyrica triples the risk of birth defects, which may spurn class action lawsuits in the future.
There have been thousands of lawsuits involving the epilepsy drug Neurontin. In 2010, a federal jury found Pfizer guilty of racketeering and awarded the Plaintiffs $142 million. Many of these lawsuits involve suicidal tendencies and other adverse events. Previously, “Warner-Lambert that was acquired by Pfizer, paid $430 million to the U.S. Justice Department over claims that they were illegally promoting Neurontin for off-label uses”.
13,000+ people have sued Wyeth (who Pfizer purchased) for their drug Prempro. They have agreed to pay $330 million to settle more than 2,200 lawsuits from women that developed breast cancer after using the drug. There is also a woman that was awarded $10.4 million in damages stemming from Prempro, $34.3 million in damages, and another that was awarded $5.1 million. These cases involved a “concerted effort to misdirect physicians” from the dangers of the drugs. In fact, there are many more examples of cases related to this drug that I could never hope to cover them all. Oh yeah, and the ingredients of this drug include horse piss, excuse my French.
Another case where Pfizer settled with shareholders over one of their acquisitions misleading investors about the risks associated with a drug. This time Pfizer agreed to pay $67.5 million without admitting any wrongdoing. They never do, do they?
Pfizer paid $55 million for illegally promoting Protonix for off-label use. They further paid $784.6 million to resolve lawsuits alleging that their acquisition Wyeth underpaid drug rebates to Medicaid.
RELPAX, ARICEPT, CELEBREX, LIPITOR, NORVASC, VIAGRA, ZITHROMAX, ZOLOFT, ZYRTEC
Not a settlement, but as part of the Bextra, Geodon, Zyvox, and Lyrica settlement I mentioned earlier, claims that kickbacks were paid to physicians for these products were settled.
Pfizer performed a clinical trial on 200 children without telling the parents that the treatment was experimental or obtaining informed consent. These children were paired off in groups of 100, with one group receiving Trovan, and the other group receiving the “gold standard” treatment at a reduced dosage in order to make their drug look better. Many of the children died or were permanently disabled. This led to a $75 million settlement, which Pfizer tried to stop by blackmailing government officials, as noted earlier.
A wide array of Viagra lawsuits have been consolidated into a class action due to the risks of melanoma. These lawsuits include allegations that the drug was marketed as safe and not sufficiently tested.
In addition to the aforementioned Bextra whisteblowers, Pfizer also paid $1.37 million to a whistleblower. Why? Oh, it might be the fact that she raised safety concerns after Pfizer’s genetically engineered virus made her sick.
New York University sued Pfizer alleging that the company failed to pay royalties on the drug.
There are a growing number of lawsuits over Xeljanz alleging that Pfizer failed to properly disclose adverse events including risks of pulmonary embolism, stroke, deep vein thrombosis, and other types of clotting injuries.
Pfizer has paid settlements to States for its marketing of Zithromax that failed to disclose risks like antibiotic resistence.
Most Zoloft lawsuits have gone in Pfizer’s favor with claims ranging from the benefits being overrepresented to the side effects being underrepresented. Some of the claimed side effects include suicidal tendencies, withdrawal, heart defects, and birth defects.
Please, let me know if I missed any cases, I tried to be inclusive and succinct as possible. Subscribe to keep up to date on future articles.