There seems to be a lot of heat in the Pharma compliance kitchens right now with a series of federal investigations and settlements. Stephanie Rabiner’s blog post summarizes the recent activity – “Glaxo pays $3B fine, Pfizer paid $2.3 billion in 2009, while Eli paid $1.4 billion the same year. And Abbott Laboratories agreed to a $1.3 billion settlement in recent weeks.”
These cases center around fraud, off-label promotions and/or kickbacks and many go back over the last 10 years. Viewed holistically and considering the consumer suits that accompany these federal one’s, it is a very big deal. The Pharma Industry is certainly in the cross-hairs right now. And the heat is being turned up.
Another blogger, Richard Cassin, last month wrote about “a flock of Pharmas”, asking the question, was the Pharma industry simply prone to these types of investigations, given the business they are in?
The allegations being investigated are certainly broad – the illegal marketing of a number of drugs, de-frauding the Medicaid program, FCPA violations, to name a few. Is this the culmination of the big investigations or is this the tip of the ice-berg?
I also looked a little closer into the Pfizer case, started by a whistle-blower lawsuit. Turns out that the list of 10 whistle-blowers includes two former employees who had spent 24 years and 16 years respectively with Pfizer. Long careers certainly, long memories, perhaps? This is not to say that the industry is inherently corrupt, but like the financial services industry, which was placed under massive scrutiny following Madoff, these types of investigations force every company in the industry to look in the mirror.
Given the revelations coming out of Penn State University this week, I would say that every Compliance Officer should be looking a little harder into their company’s Ethics programs to be sure that their company is not the next big Wall Street head-line.