Reaching Out to Pfizer Whistleblowers

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Reaching Out to Pfizer Whistleblowers

Hochfelsen & Kani wants to speak with Pfizer insiders. We are currently investigating several Medicare and Medicaid fraud cases. 

Under the federal False Claims Act and the California False Claims Act, insiders who provide original information about Medi-Cal fraud, Medicare fraud, and TRICARE fraud can receive substantial cash awards

If you worked at Pfizer or one of its associates and have suspicions of fraud against these government programs, you may be eligible for a whistleblower award. In order to qualify, insiders must file a False Claims Act lawsuit. Awards are calculated as a percentage of the total paid by the defendant in the event of a settlement or verdict.

Both the federal and state False Claims Acts (“FCAs”) establish that companies who fraudulently bill the government for products or services are liable for damages and penalties. Over the years, healthcare providers have collectively paid billions of dollars to settle FCA allegations, and whistleblowers have received hundreds of millions in awards. This legislation was created to allow private citizens to sue fraudsters on behalf of the government.

New York-headquartered Pfizer became the largest pharmaceutical corporation, on a global scale, through an aggressive strategy of acquiring its competitors. Over the last couple of decades, it carried out a number of massive acquisitions. In 2015, it announced a $160-billion merger with Allergan, which was later called off. 

More recently, it unveiled another massive merger with UK giant GlaxoSmithKline. That transaction was completed in August 2019, and a “world-leading Consumer Healthcare Joint Venture” was formed. 

The pharmaceutical giant is known for its equally aggressive marketing. In 2009, Pfizer paid a staggering $2.3 billion to resolve allegations that it had illegally marketed Bextra, a lucrative painkiller.  

Pfizer is among the most controversial pharmaceutical companies in the world.  It has settled a large number of False Claims Act lawsuits, including allegations of price-fixing, off-label promotion, drug safety violations, illegal kickbacks, and consumer protection violations. 

Whistleblowers who provide information that leads to monetary recoveries usually receive between 15 and 30 percent of the amount recovered. Recent Pfizer whistleblowers have received awards amounting to millions of dollars for aiding the government in the recovery of taxpayer funds. 

About Pfizer  

With over 92,000 employees, Pfizer has an annual revenue of more than $53.6 billion (2018 data). Its numerous subsidiaries include Upjohn, Hospira, Agouron Pharmaceuticals, G.D. Searle, Greenstone, InnoPharma, Parke-Davis, and Array BioPharma. In 2018, Pfizer made it to No. 57 in Fortune 500’s list of America’s corporations with the highest revenue.

Focused on developing and marketing drugs for a wide range of conditions, Pfizer is best known for having developed blockbuster erectile dysfunction drug Viagra. It also produces Lipitor—another best seller—Lyrica, Diflucan, and Zithromax, among countless successful medications.

Pfizer is also famous for having made some of the largest pharmaceutical fraud settlements with the Department of Justice. The company was added to the Dow Jones index in 2004.  

Pfizer has been under investigation multiple times in connection with a variety of fraudulent practices. Whistleblowers have filed numerous fraud lawsuits against the drugmaker under the False Claims Act, and many of them have secured multimillion-dollar awards.  

Our whistleblower attorneys are concerned that misconduct may be ongoing at Pfizer. We have reason to believe that the company may be engaged in various forms of Medi-Cal and Medicare fraud. When pharmaceutical companies violate U.S. regulations, consumers are often put at risk. In the case of such a large company like Pfizer, this could mean endangering millions of people.  

If you have suspicions and/or evidence of fraudulent behavior by Pfizer or one of its subsidiaries, this could have massive ramifications. As a whistleblower, you may be eligible for a cash award. If you have information about fraud impacting multiple jurisdictions, you could potentially receive awards from a large number of U.S. states.

Pfizer’s Multimillion-dollar Fraud Settlements

Pfizer’s multimillion- and multibillion-dollar settlements have made numerous headlines over the past decade. Through its anti-competitive practices, the company has contributed to increasing the cost of drugs for both consumers and the government. Pfizer has also been known to pay kickbacks and bribes, and violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. It has paid over a billion dollars to settle FCA lawsuits.

Product Safety Violations

One of Pfizer’s most dramatic fraud cases involved its subsidiary -- Shiley. According to allegations, the company knowingly commercialized defective heart valves. The New York Times reported that the faulty devices led to at least 300 deaths. The case was settled for over $155 million in 1992. Shiley’s misconduct allegedly involved falsifying manufacture records to secure a speedy FDA approval.  

In 2011, Pfizer paid four families a total of $700,000 each to resolve allegations that it had tested a new medication on Nigerian children without their parents’ consent. The events referenced in the complaint occurred during a meningitis epidemic in the African nation. 

Pfizer paid a total of $75 million to settle related cases in Nigeria, and settled similar lawsuits filed in the U.S. for an undisclosed amount. Wikileaks later revealed that the company tried to dig up dirt on a Nigerian official to influence the outcome of lawsuits filed by some of the victims’ families.

In 2004, Pfizer paid $60 million to settle a class-action suit involving a diabetes drug. Its subsidiary Warner-Lambert was the maker of the drug, Rezulin, which allegedly caused liver failure in patients, leading to numerous deaths.  

The same year, Pfizer was involved in another scandal over Celebrex, an anti-inflammatory. The company admitted that clinical trials from several years earlier had shown the drug increased the risk of heart problems in aging patients.  

In 2005, it was the turn of Bextra, a painkiller, which was found to increase the risk of developing cardiovascular and gastrointestinal problems. In 2008, the company announced it was prepared to pay a $894 million settlement to resolve allegations of wrongdoing involving both Bextra and Celebrex. 

Pfizer inherited numerous drug safety lawsuits when it acquired Wyeth in 2009. The medications involved in litigation included vaccines, hormone therapies, an antidepressant, and a diet drug linked to deadly cardiovascular problems.  

Pfizer Fraud Settlement - Ohio, Indiana, Massachusetts, New York, North Carolina, D.C., Arkansas, etc. 

In 2016,  Pfizer paid $25 million to settle allegations of fraud against Ohio Medicaid. The company allegedly sold a heartburn drug to private buyers at a lower price than it charged Medicaid. Pharma companies are required to offer government programs the most competitive pricing available. When they don’t, the resulting billings constitute false claims. 

A whistleblower complaint stated that between 2001 and 2006, Wyeth offered rebates on its drug Protonix, exclusively to private buyers. This is one of the many lawsuits Pfizer inherited when it acquired Wyeth in 2009. Besides Ohio, the company settled Medicaid fraud allegations with 33 other states and the District of Columbia. 

The allegedly defrauded states include Massachusetts, New York, North Carolina, and Arkansas. The collective state and federal settlements amounted to $785 million.

Illinois Pricing Fraud Settlement  

In October 2019, Pfizer, alongside Glaxo, Johnson & Johnson, and others, reached a $248 million settlement with the state of Illinois to resolve allegations of Medicaid fraud. According to Illinois’ Attorney General, the pharma giants systematically "published inflated average wholesale price information to induce state Medicaid programs to increase their reimbursement amounts." 

Pfizer’s share of the settlement was $60 million. In January of the same year, Teva had paid $135 million in connection with the same long-standing pricing fraud lawsuit. The state of Illinois recovered a total surpassing $648 million from all the defendants in the case. 

Pfizer California Fraud Settlement

In 2004, Pfizer agreed to pay the state of California $14.9 million to resolve allegations of Medicaid fraud involving Neurontin, an epilepsy drug. This was part of a larger settlement totaling $430 million, which also resolved allegations of illegal marketing and anti-kickback violations. Medicaid fraud settlements with other states amounted to nearly $140 million.

Neurontin was marketed by Pfizer’s subsidiary Warner-Lambert. The company allegedly promoted the drug for various off-label uses, leading to inappropriate prescriptions, which resulted in the submission of false claims for payment to Medicaid. 

In addition to deceptive marketing, Warner-Lambert allegedly paid illegal kickbacks to doctors for supporting off-label prescriptions of Neurontin. The drugmaker also disseminated unsubstantiated reports about the ‘benefits’ associated with off-label uses of the drug. 

As part of the settlement, Pfizer entered into a corporate integrity agreement and funded an advertising campaign to publicize more accurate information about Neurontin. 

Texas Medicaid Fraud Settlement

In 2013, Pfizer paid $18.17 million to resolve Texas Medicaid fraud allegations. According to the underlying claims, the drugmakers had overcharged Medicaid for various products. 

Oregon Medicaid Fraud Settlement

In 2013, Pfizer agreed to pay the state of Oregon $1.2 million to resolve allegations that it had illegally marketed Rapamune, an immunosuppressant drug commonly prescribed after kidney transplants. Manufactured by Pfizer subsidiary Wyeth, Rapamune was allegedly promoted for a variety of off-label uses. 

Pfizer agreed to pay a collective $35 million to 40 states, including Oregon, Texas, California, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, New York, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania.

Bribery Allegations 

Pfizer made its first recorded admission of guilt in a bribery case back in 1976, when it said it had paid a total of $265,000 to officials in three foreign countries. Fast forward nearly 40 years; in 2012, Pfizer agreed to pay the SEC $45 million to resolve allegations that Wyeth and a number of its subsidiaries had bribed overseas physicians and other medical professionals to increase sales in foreign countries.   

Employee Safety Issues

In 2010, a whistleblower lawsuit over worker-safety violations resulted in a $1.37 million verdict against Pfizer. The suit had been filed by a researcher who got sick after he was accidentally infected with a genetically engineered virus at one of the company’s facilities. The scientist was fired in retaliation for voicing his concerns about unsafe conditions at Pfizer’s labs.  

Alleged Misuse of Connecticut Subsidies

In 2001, Pfizer received a $60-million subsidy to open a facility in New London. Local residents sued the company, and the Supreme Court ultimately allowed the development to proceed. Eight years later, however, the company moved the facility, and about 1,400 jobs to Groton, Connecticut. 

Pfizer’s Track Record in Michigan

In 2001, Pfizer received a $70-million subsidy package to expand its operations in Ann Arbor, Michigan, totaling a $800 million investment. Only five years later, the company dismantled its new research labs, doing away with over 2,000 jobs. Pfizer also eliminated 250 jobs in Kalamazoo after receiving another subsidy package surpassing $600 million.   

Pfizer Penalized by the State of New York

In 2003, the City and the State of New York offered Pfizer a $47 million subsidy in exchange for the company’s commitment to create 2,000 local jobs. After Pfizer eliminated a large number of jobs and closed its Brooklyn location, the city penalized the company, which was forced to pay back $24.7 million.

$51.5 Million Award for Pfizer Whistleblower  

In 2009, Pfizer whistleblower John Kopchinski was awarded $51.5 million for its efforts to expose fraud by the pharmaceutical giant. Once a sales rep for the company, Kopchinski is a

Gulf War veteran, who fought against his former employer for six long years.  

Kopchinski was one of the whistleblowers who initiated the off-label marketing case involving Bextra, which concluded with a $2.3 billion verdict and a guilty plea. According to allegations, Pfizer illegally promoted Bextra and a dozen other medications for uses and doses not approved by the FDA. Kopchinski later commented that Pfizer expected him to “increase profits at all costs, even when sales meant endangering lives.”

Kopchinski, who had a pregnant wife at the time, was fired by Pfizer after raising concerns about misconduct. He saw his income reduced from the $125,000 he made at Pfizer to a mere $40,000. But his courage eventually paid off, and he now lives comfortably on his whistleblower award.  

According to government accountability center GOOD JOBS FIRST, Pfizer and its subsidiaries have paid a total of over $4.6 billion in penalties since 2000.  

Top 7 Primary Violations

  • Off-label promotion
  • False Claims Act violations
  • Drug and device safety violations
  • Foreign Corrupt Practices Act
  • Kickbacks and bribery
  • Environmental violations
  • Price-fixing

Penalties

  • $3.4 billion
  • $1.1 billion
  • $64 million
  • $60 million
  • $34.7 million
  • $6 million
  • $3.25 million

Pfizer Whistleblowers Can Receive Cash Awards

Pfizer has paid billions of dollars to settle fraud allegations. Numerous insiders have risked their financial and psychological well-being to expose fraudulent practices that abused government programs like Medicare and Medicaid. As a reward for helping the government recover taxpayer funds, many of these whistleblowers have received millions of dollars.  

When you file a lawsuit under the False Claims Act, you contribute to the fight for more transparency and ethics in the pharmaceutical industry. Medicare, Medicaid, TRICARE, and other healthcare programs are funded with taxpayer money. As such, they are supposed to provide essential services to vulnerable individuals. 

When pharmaceutical companies defraud these important programs, the government often ends up struggling to cover life-saving treatments for Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries. From price-fixing to off-label marketing and anti-kickback violations, Pfizer and its subsidiaries have settled a wide range of fraud allegations.  

The global pharma industry is a behemoth that individual nations struggle to control, and Pfizer is the biggest player in this complex scenario. The U.S. government simply cannot afford to implement adequate oversight mechanisms to prevent fraud. 

While the Medicare Fraud Task Force and others invest millions in fraud prevention, the government’s efforts are seldom enough. Both federal and state prosecutors rely on whistleblowers to provide tips that can expose fraud to recover taxpayer funds and protect consumers.

Under the False Claims Act, individuals who come forward with tips that result in favorable verdicts or settlements usually receive between 15 and 30 percent of the total recoveries. Working with a whistleblower attorney with a track record of successful settlements can greatly improve your chances of receiving an award.  

Big pharma companies must ensure that their products are safe and pose minimal risks for patients. Yet they are listed on the stock exchange and often make decisions informed by profits rather than ethics. In many cases, they incur numerous violations to increase Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements. 

This type of misconduct is rampant in California and elsewhere. In some cases, you can sue pharmaceutical companies over violations that occurred on foreign soil.  

Are you aware of fraudulent behavior by Pfizer, its subsidiaries, or its employees? Our attorneys are ready to evaluate your case and help you file a bulletproof complaint. We know exactly what a prosecutor is looking for in a  False Claims Act complaint, and we can guide you as you gather evidence, ensuring that your identity remains confidential. 

If you decide to speak out about fraud in the pharma industry, you can help recover taxpayer funds and even save lives. Call us today for a free consultation. If your case has potential, you will not have to pay our fees unless we secure a favorable settlement or verdict.

Call for Pfizer Whistleblowers

If you are a Pfizer insider or have become aware of rule violations in the pharmaceutical industry, don’t hesitate to contact us. It is illegal to promote drugs for off-label uses and to overbill Medicare, Medicaid, and other taxpayer-funded programs. 

If you have information about any fraudulent practice at Pfizer or another drugmaker that led to FCA violations, call us today at 714-907-0697 for a confidential consultation. 

We will ensure that your identity is kept confidential throughout the process. Under the FCA, if your employer has fired you in retaliation, you can also sue them for compensation.   

Whistleblowers are essential for making the pharma industry more transparent and more ethical. At Hochfelsen & Kani, we have built teams of seasoned investigators, attorneys, and scientists who can help you hold fraudsters accountable. 

We are currently investigating numerous fraud allegations involving Pfizer and its affiliates; if you have any information about fraudulent schemes or misconduct involving this or another pharmaceutical company, call us today.

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David Kani

David Kani is a Southern California based trial lawyer with a focus on whistleblower (False Claims Act, SEC and others) cases.

To connect with David: [hidden email] or 714-907-0697.
To learn more about Hochfelsen & Kani LLP: hockani.com

Read David's ebook: The Smart Whistleblower's Playbook
For media inquiries or speaking engagements: [hidden email]



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