Pfizer Strikes A Deal With Feds Over Foreign Bribes

Pfizer Strikes A Deal With Feds Over Foreign Bribes

November 18th, 2011 // 2:09 pm @

The big drugmaker has reached an agreement in principle with the US Department of Justice and the US Securities and Exchange Commission to resolve a foreign bribery investigation, and a final deal could be struck by the end of the year, according to an SEC filing (see page 34).

The disclosure comes three months after Pfizer said it “voluntarily” provided the agencies with information about “potentially improper payments” made by unspecified Pfizer and Wyeth subsidiaries in connections with sales activities in countries other than the US. The other countries were not named.

The move comes amid increased scrutiny by the feds into the pharmaceutical industry and its interactions with foreign health care systems. In late 2009, the head of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division warned drugmakers that there will be more criminal enforcement against interactions with foreign officials as they seek violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (read this).

In April, Johnson & Johnson was fined $70 million for bribing public doctors in several European countries – and paying kickbacks to Iraq – to illegally obtain business (look here). And over the past year, at least five other drugmakers, including Merck and Eli Lilly, received letters as the feds seeks to uncover any FCPA violations.

Other countries are also probing bribes. For instance, Pfizer noted in its filing investigations are under way by authorities in other countries. Last August, AstraZeneca received a criminal indictment in Belgrade, Serbia, over allegations that local employees offered alleged bribes to physicians at the Institute of Oncology and Radiology.

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