Monday, October 17, 2005

"Pfizer's Fingerprints" on the Kelo Case

We previously posted on the Supreme Court's decision on the Kelo case, which would seem to be off-topic for this blog.

The Kelo case was widely perceived to be about a city (New London, Connecticut) trying to take houses and land by eminent domain to hand the property over to a developer to build an upscale complex. However, we noted that the seizure of land was proposed by the New London Development Corporation, a not-for-profit organization whose leaders had conflicts of interest involving the pharmaceutical company Pfizer. Furthermore, Pfizer favored the upscale development to make the environment around its new research facility in New London more attractive for its workers.

The New London Day just published an article re-affirming Pfizer's involvement in the project. It first noted that a July, 2005 Pfizer press release denied the company's involvement the Kelo case,
Eminent domain has played no part in the development by Pfizer of its Global Research and Development Headquarters in New London CT.
We at Pfizer have been dismayed to see false and misleading claims appear in the media that suggest Pfizer is somehow involved in this [Kelo] matter.

However, the Day responded
But in a recent, months-long review of state records and correspondence from 1997 to 1998 - when officials from the administration of then-Gov. John G. Rowland were helping convince the pharmaceutical giant to build in New Londong - shows taht statement is misleading, at best.
Facts the paper uncovered included:

  • That a preliminary plan that included Pfizer's facility and adjacent "high end residential district," offices, businesses, and a marina was drawn up by the firm that designed Pfizer's facility.
  • Former state officials confirmed that "the state's agreement to replace the existing neighborhood was a condition of Pfizer's move...." One said, "they would not have done the deal without the commitment to make the surrounding area more livable."
  • Former state officials said "it was clear from the beginning of the negotiations with Pfizer that it would be necessary to use eminent domain to clear some of the houses in the Fort Trumbull neighborhood...."
However, Pfizer officials have kept implying that the company was not involved. For example, Nancy Hutson, listed as a "senior vice president" in charge of the Groton and New London laboratories, wrote a letter to the Day about an op-ed piece written by Froma Harrop (mentioned in our previous post), stating,
Ms. Harrop claims that homes in Fort Trumbull were razed because Pfizer wanted the area 'spiffed up.' This charge was examined at length by the Superior Court and dismissed as groundless. Repeating the fib is unfair and hurtful.
Note that Ms. Hutson did not directly refute the charges, but fell back on how the Superior Court found, and managed to claim offense in the currently politically correct manner, by referring to the op-ed piece as "hurtful."

No wonder that the public no longer finds most drug companies worthy of their trust. Although Pfizer's conduct in New London did not directly involve doctors and patients, it should certainly give us pause.

Thanks to Pharma Watch for the tip.

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