10 Amazing Facts About Pfizer's $2.3B Bextra Settlement

Last Updated Sep 2, 2009 12:21 PM EDT

The Department of Justice made official today its $2.3 billion settlement with Pfizer over its illegal marketing of Bextra and other drugs. The announcement is not a surprise: BNET first noted the settlement when Pfizer disclosed it in January.

For a detailed history of how this happened, click through the story ladder below. In the meantime, here are 10 interesting facts about the case:
  1. In addition to the fines, six whistleblowers will receive more than $102 million in the recovery, the DOJ said.
  2. "This case alone impacted more than 10,000 postal employees on workers' compensation who were treated with these drugs," said Joseph Finn, Special Agent in Charge for the Postal Service's Office of Inspector General.
  3. Whose brand name will be tarnished by the company pleading guilty to a crime? Not Pfizer's. Rather, it's "Pharmacia & Upjohn Company," which will cop to felony violation of the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act for misbranding Bextra with the intent to defraud or mislead. P&U is, of course, a Pfizer acquisition.
  4. In what must be the dumbest act of off-label drug promotion ever, Pfizer once put out a press release touting Bextra as an effective morphine-sparing analgesic after knee surgery. Bextra was not approved for post-surgery pain.
  5. Former sales manager Thomas Farina, who led a team of sales reps in Brooklyn who promoted Bextra off-label, is about one and a half months into a six-month sentence of home confinement with an electronic ankle bracelet for his role in the case.
  6. Farina's team was called "the Highlanders" -- a reference to a movie and TV show about a cult of immortals living secretly among us who must kill or be killed. Farina signed his emails, "There can be only one," a reference to the motto of the show.
  7. Farina became tangled in the probe when he was caught changing the timeclock on a computer in order to back-date certain documents. Farina did this after showing his team a compliance training video informing employees that they were under investigation on Pfizer.
  8. At one point, about 100 reps were focused on selling Bextra off-label. Their boss was Mary Holloway, who paid a $75,000 fine and is currently on two years' probation.
  9. At the time, Pfizer's medical directors thought Holloway's handling of the Bextra business was "awesome."
  10. Pfizer first disclosed the $2.3 billion fine on the same day it announced its merger with Wyeth and released its Q4 earnings. Most media missed the settlement because of they were focused on the merger. Pfizer also detailed the investigation in several of its quarterly SEC filings, but gave less detail in its quarterly earnings press releases, which come out before the SEC filings. Because people read the press releases first, and they tend to be similar to the SEC filings, no one noticed the settlement until BNET pointed it out on the morning of the Wyeth merger.

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