For years Pfizer, the maker of Celebrex and Bextra, has been blamed for promoting off-label use of their drugs. Lawsuits have been filed against Pfizer after users suffered heart attacks or strokes resulting from the ingestion of these pain relief medications. Off-label use occurs when a user is prescribed a drug for purposes other than what the FDA has approved it for. Some pharmaceutical companies have used their sales force to purposefully market their drugs to doctors off-label in order to maximize the profits from those drugs.
Recently, a former sales manager for Pfizer was indicted for obstruction of justice for altering and deleting documents from his computer and for directing other sale representatives to delete marketing and training materials concerning off-label promotion from their computers. Specifically, the indictment states that the Pfizer sales manager directed sales representatives to promote Celebrex and Bextra for doses and usages that had been denied by the FDA over safety concerns. In 2004, Pfizer was under investigation for promoting these drugs off-label and was instructed to preserve all related documents. However, the sales manager changed the clock on his computer in order to alter and resave documents to make them appear as if created earlier in time. He also deleted documents that the sales force used to promote these drugs at unapproved dosages and for unapproved uses. He then directed several other sales representatives to use similar tactics to destroy or alter information in their possession.
The unfortunate truth is that this is not an isolated incident. Evidence suggests that the promotion of unapproved uses of pharmaceutical drugs is a common practice for Pfizer and the pharmaceutical industry as a whole. This was mentioned when discussing the Zyprexa lawsuit in Alaska. This sort of thing has resulted in many people suffering unnecessary injuries from dangerous drugs that are on the market. Nonetheless, one can only imagine how many times similar actions as described above have gone undetected and unpunished.
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