Is Pfizer Too Big to Fail?

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Derek Lowe on the Pfizer settlement:

The six whistleblowers in the case are getting anywhere from $2.3 million to $51 million now that the settlement has been announced (that upper figure is Kopchinski, who seems to have provided the most serious evidence). As I mentioned the other day, I think this is a good thing. It takes a lot of nerve to step up when your employer is doing something outside the limits of the law (and asking you to do it as well). A chance to make up for the certain loss of your job (and the near-certain loss of any future prospects in the field) goes a long way.

And there's an interesting perspective on why a settlement was reached:

. . .Pfizer is the pharmaceutical equivalent of insurance giant American International Group Inc., which was too interwoven into the global economy to be allowed to fail. Likewise, if Pfizer were convicted of a crime, it would face debarment from federal programs. And that would mean that Medicaid and Medicare patients would have to either somehow pay pocket for vital medicines the company produces or go without.

Hadn't thought of that one. I wonder if any company will have the nerve to use this as a negotiating tactic? Perhaps Pfizer already did, come to think of it. . .

This implies that the larger the share of government spending in health care, the more license pharma will have to misbehave . . .

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Megan McArdle is a columnist at Bloomberg View and a former senior editor at The Atlantic. Her new book is The Up Side of Down.

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