Pfizer pays a record $2.3 billion to settle criminal charges

Pfizer Inc. (PFE) claimed yet another record Wednesday. This honor, dubious at best, came about when the pharmaceutical giant agreed to pay a record $2.3 billion to settle civil and criminal charges over marketing of its recalled Bextra arthritis drug and three other medicines. Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of Department of Health and Human Services called this a "historic settlement," which "will return nearly $1 billion to Medicare, Medicaid, and other government insurance programs." Meanwhile, Mike Loucks, acting U.S. Attorney for the District of Massachusetts crowed "The size and seriousness of this resolution [...] reflect the seriousness and scope of Pfizer's crimes."

What exactly has Pfizer done that has officials basking in their success? Well, once again it has been charged with promoting off-label uses for its drugs and for "certain payments to healthcare professionals." In other words, representatives of the company were promoting the drugs for conditions that they haven't been approved for and giving doctors kickbacks to encourage them to prescribe the meds.