The big news story of the day is the revelation that the pharmaceutical company, Pfizer, broke laws by encouraging drug for unapproved uses. Bloomberg has an article that goes into greater detail.
Pfizer executives had been instructing more than 100 salespeople to promote Bextra, a drug approved only for the relief of arthritis and menstrual discomfort, for treatment of acute pains of all kinds.
If anything, this news is unsurprising at the least. Anecdotally, doctors report pharmaceutical companies have been pushing for more uses of their drugs often in recent years. This is especially the case for drugs expanded to be given to adolescents. In one case a doctor was given $4,000 a day in speaker fees to promote an anti-psychotic drug to be used for teens. The FDA had not yet approved this use. While it is not illegal to use the drug beyond age suggestions, but it is illegal to use drugs never approved by the federal government as revealed today.
The concern for health care reform comes with the highly anticipated Senate Finance bill to be released late this week. The White House made a controversial deal with PHRMA. While other industries dealt strong deals, PHRMA only has to reduce costs by $80 billion over the next ten years and pledged advertising to promote health care reform. The House bill has been unkind to the Pharma industry, closing the “Doughnut Hole” that brings the companies a great deal of revenue from Medicare Part D. The Senate Finance Committee was more kind, failing to fully close this hole and lightly taxing the industry.
Reid’s decision on how to treat the industry will be interesting, but if this story is any indication, pharmaceutical companies will do whatever it takes to get exactly what they want.