Pfizer Inc, which boasts of being the world's largest research based pharmaceutical company, also seems to be one of the world's largest examples of health care corporations that have withstood an amazing number of settlements, fines, and at times convictions for misbehavior without major apologies, significant changes in leadership or corporate culture, or bankruptcy. (Look here for a list of the cases, and here for all we have written about Pfizer).
Pfizer, amazingly, has the malodorous distinction of having been convicted by a US jury as a RICO - a racketeering influenced corrupt organization in 2010 (look here). Pfizer executives, of course, kept their office of counsel busy by appealing the conviction, all the way up to the US Supreme Court.
As discussed on the 1BoringOldMan blog, the court has now turned down the appeal and let the conviction, which had been affirmed by lower federal court, stand. So Pfizer is now officially a racketeering influenced corrupt organization.
Yet although the description of the RICO statute that 1BoringOldMan quoted notes the law can be used to go after the leaders of organized crime, no individual at Pfizer who authorized, directed, or implemented the relevant misbehavior, which was in this case the promotion of Neurontin for off-label uses, for which its benefits were at best unproven, at worse nonexistent, even if its harms are well-documented. Thus even this RICO conviction has not affected the impunity of top health care corporate leaders.
As we have said endlessly, true health care reform will not occur until the leaders of large health care organizations are made accountable for their actions, and are prevented from becoming amazingly rich while their organizations repeatedly commit unethical or illegal acts that harm patients' and the public's health.
ADDENDUM (14 December,2013) - The followup post at 1BoringOldMan on this topic includes some optimism that now that the validity of the RICO concept applied to a large health care corporation has been affirmed, more stringent law enforcement may follow.
Roy M. Poses MD for Health Care Renewal
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