Pfizer Inc. will pay $60.2 million to settle a federal investigation into bribery overseas, in the latest deal by a big drug maker trying to move past a U.S. government crackdown on using illegal payoffs to win international business.
The world’s leading drug maker by sales, Pfizer was accused of bribing doctors, hospital administrators and regulators in several countries in Europe and Asia to prescribe medicines. Authorities uncovered evidence that company units rewarded high-prescribing doctors in China with cellphones and tea sets, while plying Croatian physicians who ordered Pfizer drugs with cash and international trips, according to court filings.
The investigators said Pfizer units also sought to hide the bribery by recording the payments in accounting records as legitimate expenses, such as training, freight and entertainment.
Under the terms of the deal announced Tuesday, Pfizer agreed to pay a $15 million fine and give back profits, but it did not admit or deny the allegations. The company noted in a statement that the allegations didn’t indicate that Pfizer management in the U.S. knew or approved of the conduct. Pfizer also noted that some of the allegations involved conduct at its Wyeth unit bought in 2009.
Pfizer and Justice Department officials said the company had been cooperating with the U.S. government since 2004, both reporting its own misconduct to investigators and describing industry marketing practices overseas. The Justice Department said that Pfizer received credit for cooperating with continuing investigations of other companies and individuals.
The Wall Street Journal