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Blog of Mass Destruction

Free Market Criminality

By The Reverend Published: September 3, 2009

Perhaps you've seen this story.....

Pfizer pays $2.3 billion

Pfizer Inc., the world's largest drug maker, will pay a record $2.3 billion civil and criminal penalty over unlawful prescription drug promotions, the Justice Department announced Wednesday.
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The department said the $2.3 billion settlement included a $1.2 billion criminal fine, the largest criminal fine in U.S. history. The agreement also included a criminal forfeiture of $105 million.
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The government said the company promoted four prescription drugs, including the pain killer Bextra, as treatments for medical conditions different than those the drugs had been approved for by federal regulators.
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Authorities said Pfizer's salesmen and women created phony doctor requests for medical information in order to send unsolicited information to doctors about unapproved uses and dosages.
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When Pfizer originally disclosed the settlement figure, it also announced plans to acquire rival Wyeth for $68 billion. That deal, which would bolster Pfizer's position as the world's top drug maker by revenue, is expected to close before year's end.

Pfizer's 4th quarter, 2008, earnings report....the quarter in which they wrote off the $2.3 billion government penalty.....was a period where Pfizer's revenues were $12.3 billion.

Pfizer spokesman Chris Loder confirmed Wednesday that the $2.3 billion charge to the company's earnings had been taken in the fourth quarter of 2008.

Obviously, what Pfizer did was a crime. A $2.3 billion fine, $1.2 billion of it a "criminal fine", whatever the hell that is......but no arrests, no jail time.....just some check writing using shareholders' money, that's all.

That is what is now acceptable in America, the status quo. Powerful and connected multinational pharmaceutical corporations, bastions of that free capitalistic market, perpetrate dangerous fraud against the American people....and other than the check writing.....no one is held responsible.

Corporations want to be recognized as being equal to a "person" when they're bribing political officials. But when that "person" is caught in a fraud scheme, then, not so much. Then they should be treated in some exceptional manner. Regular, you know, people who committed extraordinary fraud, like Pfizer did, would spend many years behind bars.

That's the state of America's free market giants today. Just like with our political officials, pharamceutical free marketers are immune from legal accountability for their actions.

I want to drill down on this for a minute.....

Authorities said Pfizer's salesmen and women created phony doctor requests for medical information in order to send unsolicited information to doctors about unapproved uses and dosages.

Every time I take my 84 year old mother for her quarterly doctor's appointment, I see them. Every time. Not one time have I taken my mother for her appointment when I have not seen them. The pharmaceutical salespeople. And not just one or two. Many times I count 4-5 drug representatives in a span of 30 minutes. The salepeople consist of both men and women, usually young and attractive, well dressed, shoes shined.....and always bearing gifts.....donuts, pizza, lunch for everyone in the office.....it's remarkable, and that's why I'm remarking on it.

Those are the same type of people who were defrauding doctors, and their patients by "creating phony doctor requests" in order to then "send unsolicited information to doctors about unapproved uses and dosages" of one of Pfizer's drugs. It was a full blown conspiracy to defraud doctors, clinics and patients.......and not one person goes to jail for it.

Health care considerations are being argued in America today. Conservatives insist that we can trust the free market, they say that the private market is the most efficient vehicle to address the needs of the many. Government, conservatives say, can't be trusted with health care coverage....if government, for example, allows Americans to choose a public insurance option, or negotiates with Big Pharma for lower drug prices.....conservatives tell me that we will turn into Cuba within a year, or something.

Yet, time after time, huge insurance and pharmaceutical free marketers have proven that they can't be trusted to do the right thing, like with Pfizer.

There's a commonly used phrase in today's conservative circles....it goes something like this...."when has the government ever run anything correctly, efficiently or responsibly."

I think a more apt phrase for today's environment would be something like this...."when have the free marketer big guys ever run anything that wasn't basically criminal in nature."

Is this Pfizer crime story proof that we can trust the free marketers with our health care? Or is the Pfizer story simply more evidence that the free market CAN'T be trusted with America's health care....and government intervention has become essential?

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