Pharmaceutical giant Pfizer pays $60M to settle bribery charges

by Eric Pearson

Pharmaceutical giant Pfizer will pay $60 million to settle charges that it paid millions in bribes to foreign officials, federal authorities announced Tuesday. Pfizer will pay roughly $45 million to the Securities and Exchange Commission to settle charges that the company, along with fellow pharmaceutical firm Wyeth, which Pfizer acquired a few years ago, violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. Pfizer also entered into a deferred prosecution agreement with the Department of Justice, agreeing to pay a $15 million penalty.

The SEC says staff from the companies’ subsidiaries paid bribes to foreign government officials to boost sales and obtain regulatory approvals. The violations occurred in Bulgaria, China, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Italy, Kazakhstan, Russia and Serbia, the SEC said.

“Corrupt pay-offs to foreign officials in order to secure lucrative contracts creates an inherently uneven marketplace and puts honest companies at a disadvantage,” James McJunkin of the FBI’s Washington field office said in a statement.

This is just the latest in a string of multi-million-dollar settlements paid by pharmaceutical companies in the last few years:

  • In May of this year, Abbott Labs agreed to pay criminal fines and civil settlements totaling $1.6 billion relating to its off-label promotion of its anti-seizure drug Depakote.
  • Earlier in 2012, pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson paid $1 billion to settle claims brought by the Department of Justice relating to its improper marketing of the antipsychotic drug Risperdal.
  • In November 2011, Merck agreed to pay $950 million to settle criminal and civil claims brought about by the Department of Justice relating to its marketing of Vioxx, a widely used painkiller that was pulled from the market in 2004 after a study revealed the drug increased the risk of heart attacks.
  • In October 2011, British drug maker GlaxoSmithKline reached a $3 billion settlement relating to its marketing of the diabetes drug Avandia.
  • And in 2009, drug makers Pfizer and Eli Lilly reached settlements of $2.3 billion and $1.4 billion arising from their drugs Bextra, Lyrica and Zyprexa.

If you or a loved one has suffered injury or death as a result of a prescription drug or medical device, you may be entitled to compensation. To find out if you may have a case, contact the lawyers at Heygood, Orr & Pearson by calling toll-free at 1-877-446-9001, or by filling out our free online case evaluation form.

by Eric Pearson

Eric Pearson is a licensed attorney and a partner at HO&P who handles commercial and personal injury lawsuits. Eric has been selected to the Super Lawyers List, a Thomson Reuters publication.