On September 2, 2009, the U.S. Department Of Justice announced that it had reached an agreement with pharmaceutical giant Pfizer Inc., and its subsidiary Pharmacia & Upjohn Company, to settle allegations that the company unlawfully marketed some of its prescription drugs. Pfizer agreed to pay a total of $2.3 billion to resolve both civil and criminal violations, including $1 billion to resolve allegations under the civil False Claims Act. According to the Justice Department, Pfizer improperly marketed four drugs (Bextra, Geodon, Zyvox, and Lyrica) for uses that were not medically accepted — a practice known as “off-label marketing” — causing false claims to be submitted to government health care programs. Among the allegations were that Pfizer paid illegal kickbacks to health care providers to induce them to prescribe these drugs.
The Justice Department’s investigation of Pfizer stemmed from information provided by six qui tam whistleblowers that provided insider information regarding the company’s wrongdoing. The False Claims Act allows for whistleblowers to receive a share of the government’s settlement as a reward for exposing fraud. Here, the whistleblowers’ reward for sounding the alarm on Pfizer’s misconduct was approximately $102 million, which will be shared among the six of them.
For more information about the False Claims Act, and how whistleblowers can help the government fight fraud, please visit FraudFighters.net.