Would you take money from this company?

Pfizer, the world’s biggest pharmaceutical company, has donated £50,000 to the University of Lincoln’s School of Natural and Applied Sciences.

Dr Ron Dixon of the school told the university’s The Staff Magazine: “I am delighted to accept this gift from a respected global pharmaceutical company.”

The money is to develop scientific research within the school. There are no restrictions on the research set by the donors.
While the research will undoubtedly be valuable, The Linc asks if the university should be accepting money from a company like Pfizer?

Corporatewatch.org, a website dedicated to scrutinising the activities of global corporations, holds an alarming dossier on Pfizer, which includes reports of overpricing pharmaceuticals in poor countries and selling faulty heart valves.

Here is a list of some concerning items from Pfizer’s history.


The university is taking money from Big Pharma, but should it? Photo: Paula Bailey

Biggest criminal fine in U.S. history

In 2009 Pfizer pleaded guilty to misbranding one of its painkillers, Bextra. The drug was sold as having uses that had not been approved by regulators.

A six-year investigation into Pfizer was carried out after one of their sales reps blew the whistle. By selling drugs for purposes that they were not approved, the former staff member claimed people were put at risk of heart attacks and strokes.

Pfizer was handed the record-breaking fine of $1.3billion.

Facing legal action over drug testing on African children

Families of 200 Nigerian children who were given the anibiotic Trovan during a menegitis outbreak in 1996 claim that Pfizer did not get proper consent to do so.

Of those 200, eleven died and others were left paralysed, blind, or brain damaged. Pfizer claims that survival rate was higher among those who took the drug and denies all allegations of wrongdoing. 

According to a BBC report: “Pfizer has separately paid $75m (£50m) to the Nigerian authorities to settle claims related to the incident, which occurred a year before Trovan was approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).”

Illegally promoted growth hormone for other uses

Pfizer secured a non-prosecution agreement, but had to pay $34.7million in fines in 2007, for marketing a human growth hormone drug, Genotropin, for uses it had not been approved for. These include anti-ageing, cosmetic use, and athletic enhancement, according to a report by counterpunch.org.

Slammed by Oxfam for pricing those in poverty out of drugs

In 2001, Oxfam published the report “Formula for Fairness: patient rights before patent rights”. In this report it accused Pfizer of applying the same pricing to every country, regardless of its wealth. This profit-over-people ethos prices out poor governements and people, limiting access to much needed treatment, so causing much more pain, suffering, and death than there could be.

“The company’s bottom line seems to matter more than the lives of the world’s poorest people,” said Justin Forsyth, the then Oxfam policy director.

An article in the Bankok Post said: “Despite owning three important drugs for infectious diseases, the antifungal drug Diflucan, the antibiotic Zithromax, and the Aids anti-retroviral Viracept-Pfizer… has shown little flexibility on pricing and patent enforcement in poor countries. Although Diflucan… is not patent protected in Thailand, Pfizer enjoyed the status by exclusively marketing it until three Thai companies began to produce the drugs in generic form in 1998.

“Pfizer then dropped its Diflucan price from US$7 (320 baht) per 200mg capsule to $3.60. Having regained market share helped by intensified marketing, Pfizer then raised its price back to $6.20.”

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