Yesterday was a very busy day at the U.S. Department of Justice, with the announcement of the largest health care fraud settlement in U.S. history, the largest criminal fine imposed in U.S. history, and the largest False Claims Act case in history.
And yes, it was all about one company -- Pfizer.
John Kopchinski, one of the six primary whistleblowers in the case, is a former Gulf War veteran and Pfizer sales representative. He told Reuters:
"In the Army I was expected to protect people at all costs. At Pfizer I was expected to increase profits at all costs, even when sales meant endangering lives."
Why do I mention this?
Simple: Pfizer also makes pet medications, and a company that will rip off people and endanger human lives is not likely to tap the brakes when it comes to pets, is it?
Pfizer was nailed yesterday for off-label marketing and paying kickbacks to doctors, clinics and hospitals for Bextra (an anti-inflammatory drug), Geodon (an anti-psychotic drug), Lipitor (a cholesterol drug), Norvasc (an anti-hypertensive drug), Viagra (erectile dysfunction), Zytthromax (an antibiotic), Zyrtec (an antihistamine), Zyvox (an antibiotic), Lyrica (an anti-epileptic drug), Relpax (an anti-migraine drug), Celebrex (an anti-inflammatory drug), and Depo-provera (a birth control drug).
As one commentator noted, "What you see here is a company which essentially has a culture of corruption."
Pfizer's single biggest fraud (for which they paid $1.8 billion, of which $1.3 billion was a criminal fine) was for off-label marketing of the Cox-2 anti-inflammatory drug Bextra.
The veterinary analog to Bextra is another Cox-2 anti-inflammatory called Carprofen, which is not FDA approved for use in humans.
Pfizer markets Carprofen under the brand name Rimadyl, and charges a pretty penny for it even though no Cox-2 drug has ever been proven to be better than Aspirin or Ibuprofen for alleviating pain.
I have written about this before in a post entitled Rimadyl: Relief From a Swollen Wallet. As I note:
[A]lmost all Rimadyl sales by veterinarians for short-term use are a rip-off; you could be using buffered children's Aspirin or a low-dosage of Ibuprofen for a lot less money.
At the core of the scam you have drug company that has created a "me too" version of Ibuprofen that they sell through veterinarians. Veterinarians sell the drug at a big profit (more than 100 percent markup) and also create client dependency as folks have to come back in those cases where a recurring condition (like limber tail) might arise. The drug company makes a lot money, the veterinarian makes a lot of money, and you, the customer, are out of money
If you are interested in saving money and ditching Rimadyl (and the veterinary dependency that comes with it), be sure to read my post on aspirin and Ibuprofen use and dosage in dogs.
Dosage is critical with all drugs. As I note, "ANY medicine is a poison if it is not given in the proper dosage." And, just to put a point on it, Rimadyl might be the right drug for your dog in certain long-term-use cases. Again, see the link.
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