Unmasked: Pfizer’s Ethical Bankruptcy in the Covid Era

The Dark Side of Big Pharma

The Dark Side of Big Pharma: Pfizer’s Regulatory Violations

As my old mom used to say, it will all come out in the wash, and this needs a really good wash!

Once again, the unvarnished avarice and ethical bankruptcy polluting the very marrow of Big Pharma stands cruelly exposed by the latest shameful rulings against covid profiteer Pfizer. This regulatory revanchism comes courtesy of the Prescription Medicines Code of Practice Authority, the industry’s own self-appointed guardians tasked with maintaining the very “high standards” their pharmaceutical patrons so egregiously desecrate.

In a withering judgment, the watchdog accused the vaccine behemoth of “bringing discredit upon, and reducing confidence in, the pharmaceutical industry” through its wanton “misuse of social media to misleadingly and illegally promote” its unlicensed covid inoculations. Let that damnation sink in – Pfizer’s zeal for profiteering has become so unbound, so utterly antithetical to the ethics ostensibly governing this life-and-death industry, that even the corporatist panel officiating its rites felt compelled to censure such grotesque impiety.

At the dark heart of this rebuke lies a perfidious social media campaign wherein Pfizer’s UK medical director, Dr. Berkeley Phillips, and his senior cadre openly hawked for an as-yet unlicensed product they misleadingly touted as “95% effective” against covid with no safety disclosures or adverse event context. This blatant subversion of regulations safeguarding public welfare represents an “unlicensed medicine being proactively disseminated” across Twitter, the panel thundered, conducted in brazen violation of industry code.

Big Pharma
Photo by Michelle Ress CC 2.0

For the unself-aware Pfizer spokesman to dismiss this damning violation as mere “personal” indiscretion strains credulity. When senior executives at the apex of this multi-billion pound leviathan so cavalierly flout protocols meant to prioritise public health over private enrichment, it evinces a corporate rot so profound only root-and-stem reformatting can extirpate it. This is not happenstance, nor isolated apathy, but systemic regulatory capture by entities for whom ethical disregard is institutionalized praxis.

That this represents the sixth such Pfizer dressing-down since the vaccine rollout only amplifies the pattern’s disturbing clarity. From its CEO’s reprimanded “misleading” statements hyping child inoculations, to the company’s myriad other punishments for unlawful social media hucksterism, a malignant culture of deception courses through Pfizer’s very DNA. One too reminiscent of its deplorable Opioid profiteering that immiserated millions before public fury mercifully curtailed those killing fields.

Pfizer is facing multiple lawsuits globally over its Covid-19 vaccine, including in Texas, where the State’s Attorney General Ken Paxton sued the company in November for “unlawfully misrepresenting the effectiveness” of its Covid-19 vaccine and “attempting to censor public discussion of the product.”

Paxton claimed that Pfizer engaged in “false, deceptive, and misleading acts and practices by making unsupported claims regarding the company’s COVID-19 vaccine in violation of the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act.”

The lawsuit alleges that Pfizer “fostered a misleading impression that vaccine protection was durable and withheld from the public information that undermined its claims about the duration of protection.”

It also claims: “And, despite the fact that its clinical trial failed to measure whether the vaccine protects against transmission, Pfizer embarked on a campaign to intimidate the public into getting the vaccine as a necessary measure to protect their loved ones.”

One ruling by the watchdog, from November 2022, found that Pfizer’s chief executive made “misleading” statements about children’s vaccines.

Following a complaint from the campaign group UsForThem, the PMCPA found that Pfizer had misled the public, made unsubstantiated claims and failed to present information in a balanced way.

Three of the other Pfizer cases related to LinkedIn posts, one related one was about claims made in a press release and one was about posts on X.

For the most recent series of breaches, Pfizer was charged a measly administrative cost of £34,800.

Ben Kingsley, the head of legal affairs at UsForThem, said: “It’s astonishing how many times Pfizer’s senior executives have been found guilty of serious regulatory offences – in this case including the most serious offence of all under the UK Code of Practice.

“Yet the consequences for Pfizer and the individuals concerned continue to be derisory.  This hopeless system of regulation for a multi-billion dollar life and death industry has become a sham, in dire need of reform.”

Back in August 2022 Pfizer and Flynn were fined £70m after ripping off the NHS for nearly £200m. The largest fine of its kind at the time. Pfizer was still in profit after the fine.

The UK’s competition watchdog fined New York-based Pfizer £63m and imposed a £6.7m penalty on Flynn, a smaller UK pharmaceutical firm based in Stevenage.

The fines are the result of an in-depth investigation carried out by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), which found that Pfizer and Flynn charged unfairly high prices for phenytoin sodium capsules for over 4 years, ultimately paid for by the NHS.

The firms de-branded the drug, previously known as Epanutin, meaning it was no longer subject to price regulation and the firms could set prices at their discretion. Given Pfizer and Flynn were the dominant suppliers of the drug in the UK at the time, the NHS had no choice but to pay the inflated final price for this important anti-epilepsy medicine.

Over the following 4 years, Pfizer charged prices between 780% and 1,600% higher than previously. The company supplied the drug to Flynn, which then sold the capsules on to wholesalers and pharmacies at a price between 2,300% and 2,600% higher than the prices previously charged by Pfizer.

With these lawsuits now mounting across the globe over Pfizer’s covid snake oil—from Germany to Texas where the company stands accused of perpetuating “misleading claims” while seeking to “intimidate the public” into undue vaccination—the chickens are finally coming home to roost for these rapacious corporate vipers. Let us hope this represents the proverbial inflection triggering their undoing, the people’s comeuppance for Profiteering’s most cynical purveyors.

Until we return these untamed markets and guardianless corporate titans to civil governance under an ethical social contract prizing universal public welfare above rent-seeking plunder, the rapacious greed fueling such wanton regulatory dereliction shall reign unchecked. It is time for the rebirth of a truly socialized system of medicine—one emancipated from profiteering capture and accountable solely to the people it exists to serve.

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