by Jim Edwards
Brandweek December 12, 2005
In sum, the civil side of the case may be the least of Pfizer’s Rost-inspired worries if prosecutors are moving forward with a criminal investigation. Legal experts say that simply because the feds stepped back from pursuing a civil suit does not mean that the criminal probe will falter.
“A perfectly good case can be declined and is declined all the time, sometimes because the government does not have enough time to investigate,” said Kenneth Nolan of the Nolan Firm in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., a specialist in federal whistleblower cases.
The judge in the civil case ordered that copies of all Pfizer’s civil litigation in the matter be given to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Boston so that it can be kept abreast of developments in the case,
Aside from Rost’s claim, three other developments indicate that Pfizer may be a focus of negative attention:
- On Oct. 17 the Swiss firm Serono paid $704 million in fines to resolve its civil and criminal liabilities in its marketing of Serostim, an anti-AIDS wasting drug. Serostim is, essentially, growth hormone. That case was brought by the same U.S. Attorney’s Office currently receiving papers in the Pfizer case.
- On Oct. 26, the Journal of the American Medical Association published a study which concluded that most growth hormone use in the U.S. is illegal. “Despite the fact that the vast majority of HGH prescriptions should be for children, 74% of HGH prescriptions in 2004 were for people 20 and older, and 44% were for people 40 to 59. Sales of HGH in 2004 totaled $622 million (almost 213,000 prescriptions),” said a statement from the University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health, which authored the article in part.
- And in 1999, Genentech was fined $50 million for illegal marketing of Protropin, its growth hormone brand. In that case, Genentech had encouraged the use of its product in children who were somewhat short, but not actually suffering from deficient growth.
Prosecutors declined to comment last week, as did Pfizer.
When Pfizer fired its vp-marketing for endocrinology products earlier this month, it earned some long-delayed good publicity for the move.