September 3, 2009
The Department of Justice announced Wednesday that pharmaceutical giant Pfizer agreed to pay a staggering $2.3 billion to settle civil and criminal health care fraud charges. According to the charges, Pfizer encouraged doctors to prescribe its drugs for uses and dosages that the Food and Drug Administration had specifically declined to approve due to safety concerns. In an effort to address this problem, the Senate health committee recently voted 23 to 0 for an amendment by Sen. Bernie Sanders to increase penalties for health care fraud. “What we have seen for many years is the systemic fraud perpetrated by private insurance companies, private drug companies, and private for-profit hospitals ripping off the American people and the taxpayers of this country to the tune of many billions of dollars,” Sanders said about his amendment to health care reform legislation.
The $2.3 billion settlement is the largest in the history of the Department of Justice. According to the charges, Pfizer influenced doctors to prescribe the drugs by treating them to meals, paying them for speaking engagements and subsidizing their travel. In doing so, the company put numerous patients at risk.
Although outrageous, Wednesday’s news is nothing new. Virtually all of the largest pharmaceutical companies, medical insurance companies, and private hospital chains have a long history of rampant and unbridled fraud, waste, and abuse. Pfizer itself settled similar charges in 2002 and 2004.
To read about the senator’s amendment, click here.
Watch the senator discuss fraud here.
To read the New York Times article, click here.