What happens when a drug doesn’t have the benefits that its manufacturer was counting on as a selling point? According to a recently released email from Pfizer’s research director, you spin a story and hope the public will accept it “hook, line, and sinker.”
When a year-long medical study showed that Pfizer’s arthritis drug Celebrex was not safer for the stomach than other drugs, the company was alarmed because the primary selling point for the drug had been undermined entirely. But that was only true if the public became aware of the study results. Pfizer executives apparently decided that they did not want the study to be public. Instead, the company released only the first half of the year-long study so that it appeared Celebrex was safer, while the full study revealed that it was not.
A research director for Pfizer discovered that the truncated study had been featured at a medical conference and wrote an email celebrating the company’s success in misleading the public: “They swallowed our story, hook, line and sinker.”
Pfizer’s misleading publication of the study results have been known since 2001, but the 12-year-old email was in a set of documents recently unsealed in a securities fraud case against Phizer. Pfizer has always claimed that it did not intend to mislead the public by releasing only half of the relevant medical study. The email certainly suggests, however, that Pfizer was engaged in a deliberate fraud. It seems that the company intentionally hid information about the safety of Celebrex to protect the company’s financial interests.
A group of pension funds sued Pfizer for securities fraud in 2003, arguing that the company’s deception resulted in a drop in stock price when the full study results were revealed. The Food and Drug Administration revealed the full study in 2001, and when other drug manufacturers were found to have withheld important data as well, these actions prompted a call for reforms in the publishing of clinical trials.
Waters & Kraus is a national firm with highly skilled lawyers practicing qui tam litigation in four offices, including Dallas, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Baltimore. Our attorneys have decades of experience successfully representing whistleblowers in a variety of fraud cases. Contact us or call our attorneys at 800.226.9880 to learn more about our practice and how we can assist.