• Louize Small

Pfizer: Do We Trust Them With Our Lives?

The Biotechnological vaccine is unlicensed and exempt from civil liability.

Before Pfizer’s recent breakthrough with the coronavirus vaccine, most people’s knowledge of the pharmaceutical giant was limited to that little blue pill that keeps men up all night. But, with the nation divided on whether or not they’ll be having the vaccine, it might be time to take a dive into the corporation’s history before any decisions are made regarding safety and trustworthiness.

Founded in 1849 by German-American Charles (Karl) Pfizer, the company was originally a purveyor of ‘fine chemicals.’ Its first success was Santonin, a drug derived from daisies and used to combat intestinal worms. The development of an alternative method of citric acid production led to a huge boom for Pfizer, whose sales had already reached $3.4 million by 1906.

The discovery of Terramycin in 1950 heralded Pfizer’s transition to a research-based pharmaceutical company. In the following decade they expanded globally and began to market their products aggressively – sometimes unethically. Advertising in American medical journals, they published fraudulent endorsements by fictitious physicians and have made unsubstantiated claims, consistently promoting unapproved (off-label) use of their medicines.

In 1958, Pfizer were accused of making false statements to the Patent Office in order to obtain a patent for the antibiotic Tetracycline. They were also charged with price-fixing and found guilty of conspiring to create a monopoly, along with American Cyanamid and Bristol-Myers. It cost them $150 million to settle the claims in a case that spanned decades.

Scandal struck again in the 1980s with a product safety issue concerning defective heart valves. It was claimed that Pfizer deliberately misled regulators about the hazards of the valves. 125 people died as a result of their negligence and tens of thousands lived their lives terrified of the ticking time bombs inside their bodies. Pfizer paid $205 million in fines and a further $9 million to monitor and/or replace the valves.

In 1996, following a meningitis outbreak in Kano, Nigeria, Pfizer set up an antibiotic trial. The unlicensed drug, Trovan, was given to 200 children without any official consent obtained from their parents. Eleven children died and many others developed mental illnesses, brain conditions, paralysis and deformities. Parents and local governments took legal action against Pfizer and accused them of using the outbreak as an excuse to test experimental drugs. They fought back, hard and dirty, but eventually agreed to a $75 million out of court settlement and an extra $35 million to fund local projects.

In a record case, in September 2009, Pfizer agreed to pay $2.3 billion to resolve civil and criminal allegations that they had illegally marketed four drugs (Bextra, Geodon, Zyvox and Lyrica) for unapproved use. The off-label prescription of these medicines affected tens of thousands of people and caused many deaths. It was the biggest case of healthcare fraud ever known.

It has been said that Pfizer relied on researchers with a history of misconduct, in order to suppress unfavourable results and get the positive outcome they wanted. The sales teams were no better, with one team of 100 agents focused solely on selling one drug (Bextra) off-label. Former sales representative - turned whistleblower - John Kopchinski, said: “The whole culture of Pfizer is driven by sales, and if you didn’t sell drugs illegally, you weren’t seen as a team player.”

A 2017 report by the Reputation Institute ranked Pfizer LAST among the 17 top-ranked drug makers for reputation. It’s not hard to see why. Their environmental record is appalling. They dump toxic waste, pollute the air and, in 1991, paid $3.1 million to the Environmental Protection Agency for serious damage caused to the Delaware River. They had failed to install pollution-control equipment in their Pennsylvania plant and the result was catastrophic.

It’s also worth noting their record of bribery. Doctors and local officials in Eurasian countries were bribed to the tune of millions of dollars. A team in Italy gave medical professionals technology devices, holidays and cash payments under the guise of ‘lecture fees and training,’ in return for promises to recommend and prescribe Pfizer’s products. A minimum of $60 million has been paid to settle charges of bribery.

A full summary of the company’s misconduct would be far too lengthy to detail here so we’ll move to the present time and talk about the imminent vaccine. Former Pfizer Chief Scientific Advisor, Dr. Michael Yeadon, expresses concerns that development is still in its infancy. The study is not due to be completed until December 2022 and only then will we know of any longer-term implications. He said: “If any such vaccine is approved for use under any circumstances that are not explicitly experimental, I believe the public are being misled to a criminal extent.”

The proposed Pfizer vaccine is a biotechnological drug in very early stages of development. Biotech medicines are fairly recent innovations; quality control and final product standardisation are harder to achieve and it is more difficult to find satisfactory monitoring and evaluation methods. Any contamination during the manufacturing process can result in erroneous activation of immune response.

The U.K. government has the power to ‘temporarily authorise’ the sale or supply of an unlicensed medicine in response to a suspected pathogenic agent - amendments to the Human Medicines Regulations are being rushed through, with minimum consultation, to remove civil liability from vaccine manufacturers and those who administer unauthorised immunisations to the public.

Isn’t it wise to be cautious or concerned, given Pfizer’s track record? The least we should do is to make sure we are informed of any potential harm, knowing there is little to no recourse for those who wish to inject us with unlicensed, perhaps unnecessary, biotechnological drugs.

(c) Louize Small, November 2020.

This article features in December's edition of the Light newspaper.


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