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.”
Fraud, misconduct, and illegal activity are well-known aspects of pharmaceutical companies’ business practices. Unlike other large industries, while business practices may be potentially unethical, but not illegal, those in the pharmaceutical industry routinely and flagrantly engage in illegal activity without facing any deterrent consequences. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the False Claims Act (FCA) deem pharmaceutical companies criminally and civilly liable for engaging in conduct including, but not limited to, misbranding and mislabeling products, promoting products for off-label or non-FDA approved uses, misrepresenting or adulterating data and clinical trial results, and failing to disclose or adequately warn consumers of potential risks and side effects. Violations of these laws and regulations are so widespread and regular, that it is difficult to argue that they are not purposeful. – Annastasia Morairty, Journal of Health and Biomedical Law
Keep in mind that this paper was published in 2010 and only deals with criminal actions of Pfizer from 2002-2010. We are now in 2021, and the problem has become so widespread that even scientists from within organizations like the Centres For Disease Control (CDC), for example, are blowing the whistle. For example, a few years ago more than a dozen senior scientists from within the agency put out a letter stating the following:
We are a group of scientists at CDC that are very concerned about the current state of ethics at our agency. It appears that our mission is being influenced and shaped by outside parties and rogue interests. It seems that our mission and congressional intent for our agency is being circumvented by some of our leaders. What concerns us most, is that it is becoming the norm and not the rare exception. Some senior management officials at CDC are clearly aware and even condone these behaviours. Others see it and turn the other way. Some staff are intimidated and pressed to do things they know are not right. We have representatives from across the agency that witness this unacceptable behaviour. It occurs at all levels and in all our respective units. These questionable and unethical practices threaten to undermine our credibility and reputation as a trusted leader in public health. We would like to see high ethical standards and thoughtful, responsible management restored at CDC.
If you’d like to read about how all this relates to the COVID-19 vaccine, you can do so in an article I recently published here which documents the concerns many doctors, scientists and people are having when it comes to the vaccine.
There are many examples, too many to write about. Monsanto, for instance, now a branch of Bayer Pharmaceuticals, colluded with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to stifle cancer research and any connections to their products. The European Union approved the use of glyphosate and their approval was found to be based on plagiarized “science” from Monsanto. Monsanto has been in and out of court, dealing with numerous cancer cases linked to their products, mainly glyphosate. Bayer has paid more than $10 billion to end thousands of lawsuits filed over its Roundup weedkiller. (source)
A study published in the British Medical Journal in 2016 by researchers at the Nordic Cochrane Center in Copenhagen showed that pharmaceutical companies were not disclosing all information regarding the results of their drug trials. Researchers looked at documents from 70 different double-blind, placebo-controlled trials of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI) and serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRI) and found that the full extent of serious harm in clinical study reports went unreported. These are the reports sent to major health authorities like the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. You can read more about that story here
Those of you who have been involved in the past in the battle to protect our children from poorly made vaccines or toxic chemicals in our food or in our water know the power of these industries and how they’ve undermined every institution in our democracy that is supposed to protect little children from powerful, greedy corporations. Even the pharmaceutical companies have been able to purchase congress. They’re the largest lobbying entity in Washington D.C.. They have more lobbyists in Washington D.C. than there are congressman and senators combined. They give twice to congress what the next largest lobbying entity is, which is oil and gas… Imagine the power they exercise over both republicans and democrats. They’ve captured them (our regulatory agencies) and turned them into sock puppets. They’ve compromised the press… and they destroy the publications that publish real science. – Robert F. Kennedy Jr.
Concealing evidence that calls into question various products put out by these companies is quite commonplace.
The Takeaway: The amount of power and control big companies, like Pfizer for example, seem to exercise over government, federal health regulatory agencies and big media is a huge concern. Why aren’t there independent bodies working separately from government to insure that all products released by these entities are truly safe and effective? Why have we given so much power over to government, which in itself seems to have become a corporation tasked to maximize profit and control rather than actually execute the will of the people.
Why do we have such a hard time discussing controversial topics? Why are things always made out to seem so black and white? Why are we so polarized in our beliefs to the point where we can’t look at another viewpoint that challenges our own? Why can’t we understand why some people disagree with us and why they feel the way they do?
It’s hard to know what the solution to tackle these problems is given the fact that these entities have amassed so much power that they are free to do what they want. At the end of the day, awareness and sharing information is no doubt key, but something bigger needs to happen at this point to stop this kind of activity and behaviour. Ultimately, we need to stop looking towards these companies and institutions with trust, we need to stop relying on them to tell us how to help us with our problems, in this case, health problems and we need to take these issues into our own hands and receive help from those who actually have our best interests at heart Have we become to complacent and reliant? Why do so many people simply trust these companies and believe everything they say? Is it time to start seeing our world in a different light and look at the “negative” parts of it from a neutral perspective so we can begin to transform it?