$102 Million in Whistleblower Awards Rewarded to Pharmaceutical Whistleblowers
Pfizer, a giant global pharmaceutical company that produces some of the world’s most commonly used drugs, agreed to a settlement amount of $2.3 billion and pled guilty after in a whistleblower case that lasted for six years. After the settlement from Pfizer was finalized, $102 million in whistleblower awards were paid out to the whistleblowers who initiated the case and brought forward the evidence that advanced the case against Pfizer.
Pfizer’s $2.3 Billion Settlement
The majority of whistleblower cases reported under the False Claims Act (FCA) occur within the healthcare industry. Each year hundreds of millions of dollars and sometimes billions, are often recovered by the government after a successful qui tam case. In the history of these cases, the Qui Tam lawsuit filed against Pfizer marked the largest whistleblower settlement to date.
In 2003 six employees at Pfizer, came forward with evidence that suggested the pharmaceutical company was conducting fraud. It was alleged that the company created an internal culture that suggested the organization’s purpose is to drive sales above all and the promotion of the drugs had to be done in manners that were not necessarily approved by the FDA, otherwise he would not be considered a “team player.”
They were advised to promote a pain medication known as Bextra for purposes other than what it was approved for, which is known as off-label promotion. Off-label promotion may come in different ways where pharmaceutical sales representatives tell the medical facilities they are distributing the drugs to that the product has many more benefits than listed and tells them to prescribe it to their patients for things that were not approved by the FDA. After refusing to comply with the requests from Pfizer, the lead whistleblower was dismissed from his position and fired from the company.
Strong corroborated evidence of the off-label promotion was provided against Pfizer, which led to a full investigation by the government into the matters reported in the whistleblower lawsuit. The investigation lasted for more than five years. Ultimately, In 2009 Pfizer pled guilty due to the evidence brought forward against the company, as well as findings from an investigation initiated by the government and the lawyer who led to the case.
The company agreed to pay a settlement fee of $2.3 billion for the damages and for fines that were issued to them. The government awarded $102 million of the settlement paid by Pfizer to the individuals who initiated the whistleblower case.
The lead whistleblower obtained over $50 million of the reward for commencing the case.
After bringing forward evidence of fraudulent activities by Pfizer that stemmed from off-label promotion of its drugs, the whistleblowers were able to commence a lawsuit under the False Claims Act and hold it accountable for promoting products for things that were not approved by the FDA. Pfizer’s record $2.3 billion settlement should put other pharmaceutical companies on notice that the government will not allow them to try to promote products in a way that has not been cleared by the FDA for the safety of the people. If you’re asking yourself, “How do I report Medicare Fraud,” People who have information regarding off-label promotion or other inside information regarding the government being defrauded should speak with a pharmaceutical whistleblower lawyer like former FBI Special Agent Jason T. Brown of Brown, LLC to receive a free consultation regarding their rights.