By Cameron Stephenson

November 7th, 2012  12:00pm

Last week, Pfizer Inc. announced it will plead guilty to criminal charges brought by the Department of Justice for violations of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act regarding the marketing of the drug Rapamune.  Rapamune, developed by Wyeth Pharmaceuticals, Inc., which was acquired later by Pfizer, Inc. in 2009, was originally developed as an immunosuppressant to help prevent rejection of donor kidney organs following transplant operations.  However, in direct violation U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval, the company engaged in illegal marketing efforts aimed at promoting use of the drug for multiple off-label, non-kidney organ transplant operations.  Big Pharma marketing malfeasance should be of no surprise.

In addition to the guilty plea, the pharmaceutical giant also agreed to pay $491 million to settle a qui tam whistleblower lawsuit brought on behalf of several states and the federal government.  Among the multiple egregious allegations contained within the complaint, is that physicians, while attending continuing medical education seminars, were paid kickbacks to prescribe the drug for off-label uses, and that company grants were used to generate false medical studies designed to influence physicians to prescribe the drug.

You know, I used to read about this type of conduct and truly be shocked.  Now, I have realized that this is just another example of the extent to which Big Pharma will go to put their profits over your safety.  Every single day, multi-billion dollar pharmaceutical companies such as Pfizer pride themselves on supposedly making the world a better place by curing disease.  However, what they don’t tell you, and frankly spend millions of dollars trying to cover up, is how many deaths they cause and lives they ruin each and every year from false marketing and advertising practices, by misleading the FDA during the drug approval process, by misleading physicians who they count on to prescribe their drugs, and, most importantly, by rushing their drugs onto the marketplace before they have been adequately tested and their adverse effects realized.

The whole industry is a profits first, ask questions later enterprise.  This is not my opinion; it is a factual certainty based upon a well-established history of egregious conduct.  The primary goal of Big Pharma is not to make the world a better place; it is to get richer.  Making the world a better a place is a distant second, at best.  This is the sad, practical reality, and I guarantee you that it will never change because there is no financial incentive to do so.

Cameron Stephenson is a lawyer with the Levin, Papantonio law firm in Pensacola, Florida, and handles medical malpractice and other wrongful death cases.  He has devoted his legal practice to fighting for the rights of Florida’s injured patients.