[FoRK] Corporate punishment??

Stephen D. Williams sdw at lig.net
Wed Apr 14 11:38:18 PDT 2010

On 4/14/10 9:32 AM, Benjamin Black wrote:
> On Wed, Apr 14, 2010 at 9:11 AM, Stephen D. Williams<sdw at lig.net>  wrote:
>> ...
> The pattern is of systematic abuse, of which this is but one example.
> The notion that Pfizer would just go out of business and the drugs
> they make disappear is absurd.  At worst, they would be chopped up and
> sold off to other companies, and the drug production would never see a
> hiccup.  The comparison to banks being too big to fail is apt, as this
> sort of response serves only to further solidify and encourage these
> illegal activities.

With the banks, there was participation in the risk insanity at the 
top.  And they were given lots of money and other emergency support, not 
fined.  While I agree that the drug companies have too much influence 
because they fund a lot of research and similar concerns, it is doubtful 
that they systemically abuse the law to the level of clear illegality.  
And I'm certain that is true after a $1.2B judgment.  Heck, I hope it 
isn't true so we can get a few more mega-judgments.  $1.2B doesn't 
encourage anybody.  This was a screwup basically traced back to one 
guy.  That guy will not do it again, if he even works there.  And no one 
else will want to have that problem either.

Unless the company is sick at the top or in some pervasive and stubborn 
way (Enron, et al), they should not be put out of business.  In this 
case, that would be somewhat like finding that one small company in an 
industry was screwing up and responding by putting everyone in that 
industry out of business.  A corporation is made of people who are 
individual actors with various levels of culpability and 
responsibility.  You have to differentiate between situations.
>> And the company did feel the pain at least a little:
> As should be clear, both from the article and from looking at the
> profits Pfizer generates, this is a pin prick and they probably just
> wrote it off.  Cost of doing business, you know?

Probably just wrote it off?  Of course they wrote it off, but how do you 
think the profit numbers looked for the related divisions, managers, 
etc.?  If they were doing this in multiple cases, each one of those 
could have generated a similar penalty.  It's not like it is hard to 
gather evidence here.

>> This was a fairly minor error: They said 40mg was safe when the FDA had said
>> only 20mg was.  That's at least in the ballpark of an area of disagreement.
>>   Clearly wrong, and probably harmed some people, but not nearly as bad as it
>> could have been.
> Ballpark of an area of disagreement?  They broke the law!  They pushed

Doctors and researchers, independent, at the company, and at the FDA, 
can and usually do have disagreements about interpretation, weight, 
etc.  It was not illegal for the doctors to prescribe off label.  It 
*was* illegal for the company to suggest it.

Considering that the prescribing could be argued to be legal, it's 
pretty good that the FDA obtained such a fine.

> the drug for use at TWICE the FDA approved level and for uses far
> outside the boundaries.  The post-surgical pain uses for which they
> had hoped to get approval, and for which they subsequently marketed
> the drug aggressively, were explicitly denied.  This was not a
> misunderstanding, this was a conscious choice by numerous people at
> Pfizer to break the law to increase their profits.  Such actions are
> the norm in the pharmaceutical industry.  Why?  Because they know
> there are no consequences.
> b


More information about the FoRK mailing list