While progressives are still celebrating the passage of healthcare reform by the House, there seems to be amnesia when it comes to who we are dealing with – big pharma. One thing missing in healthcare reform that really should be there is dealing with situations like this:
On the morning of Sept. 2, 2009, another Pfizer unit, Pharmacia & Upjohn, agreed to plead guilty to the same crime. This time, Pfizer executives had been instructing more than 100 salespeople to promote Bextra, a drug approved only for the relief of arthritis and menstrual discomfort, for treatment of acute pains of all kinds.
Record High Fine
For this new felony, Pfizer paid the largest criminal fine in U.S. history: $1.19 billion. On the same day, it paid $1 billion to settle civil cases involving the off-label promotion of Bextra and three other drugs with the U.S. and 49 states.
You think that a fine like that would cause these practices to stop, but take a few minutes and read the entire article on Bloomberg and you will see that Phizer is a repeat offender and they aren’t alone. Every other big pharma company engages in the same illegal activity, they get fined and continue to do it.
The fact is that Pfizer makes huge profits. They made $2.88 billion in the third quarter last year alone, so this fine doesn’t even wipe out the profits of 3 months. These aren’t fines they are getting, they are the cost of business.
Imagine this. Joe the crack dealer down the street gets busted. He has been selling crack to half the town and making some big money. Now he is busted. He sits down with prosecutors and makes a deal. Instead of going to jail or anything he pays a fine of about 80% of what he made in the last three months. He doesn’t have to pay it all at once either. Instead he can take a few years to pay it and then tells them he won’t do it again. Do you think Joe will stop selling his crack? Do you think this would really happen, or would Joe end up locked up in prison?
What should go into healthcare reform is a provision to make these crimes severely punishable. People should end up in jail and the company should be taken over by the government until responsible people can be found to run it. If we can take over companies for screwing up our economy, we sure as hell should be able to take over them for screwing up people health, knowingly and for profit.