Can You Believe Drug Companies Declared too Big to Fail -- Just Like Wall Street!

Pfizer  was charged with a crime -- but the company’s imaginary friend took the rap.

Pfizer, the world's largest pharmaceutical company, was caught illegally marketing Bextra, a painkiller that was taken off the market in 2005 because of safety concerns.

When the criminal case was announced last fall, federal officials touted their prosecution as a model for tough, effective enforcement. But when it came to prosecuting Pfizer for its fraudulent marketing, the pharmaceutical giant had a trump card: Just as the giant banks on Wall Street were deemed too big to fail, Pfizer was considered too big to nail.

Why? Because any company convicted of a major health care fraud is automatically excluded from Medicare and Medicaid. Convicting Pfizer on Bextra would prevent the company from billing federal health programs for any of its products. It would be a corporate death sentence.

So Pfizer and the feds cut a deal. Instead of charging Pfizer with a crime, prosecutors would charge a Pfizer subsidiary, Pharmacia & Upjohn Co. Inc.  That subsidiary is nothing more than a shell company whose only function is to plead guilty.

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