The biggest and most well-known pharmaceutical corporations include Merck, Bristol-Myers Squibb, and Pfizer. Even though these corporations spend billions of dollars on research for medications and vaccines, they are still ranked pretty low in public opinion. The reason for this is probably due in part to the multiple pharmaceutical scandals that surface each year, causing a negative public perception of these companies and the work they do. Here are some of the biggest and most outrageous pharmaceutical scandals to date.
The Merck Vioxx Scandal
In 2004, pharmaceutical company Merck abruptly announced a recall of Vioxx, which was a popular pain medication at the time. After the fact, it was discovered by the FDA that Vioxx significantly increased the risk of heart attack and stroke. By the time Vioxx was pulled from the market, nearly 25 million Americans had taken the drug, and it was tied to almost 40,000 deaths. Many say that Vioxx was the worst drug disaster in history, and it is suspected that Merck and the FDA were working together to quiet the health concerns and keep the drug on the market. Fines and class action lawsuits followed, which ended up costing the company more than 5 billion dollars.
The Bristol-Myers Squibb Abilify Scandal
Abilify is an antipsychotic medication marketed by Bristol-Myers Squibb. In 2007, BMS had to pay over $515 million in fines because it was discovered that Abilify had been marketed for conditions that it had not actually been approved to treat. Even worse, the company had sales teams marketing the medication to nursing homes, even though they knew the drug had potentially fatal side effects for the elderly who suffer from dementia.
The Merck MMR Scandal
In recent years, Merck has been in the firing line once again for fraudulently representing the mumps component of its MMR vaccine. It is alleged that the company falsified reports that state the current MMR vaccine is more effective than the original MMR vaccine. There are many whistleblowers who were employees for Merck that claim to have witnessed firsthand reports being falsified and evidence being destroyed in order to cover it up.
The Roche Medicine Safety Scandal
In 2012, the pharmaceutical company Roche was under investigation for deficiencies in their medicine safety reporting system. After 15,000 deaths were reported as possibly linked to medications that were being marketed by them, no investigations were conducted to evaluate if any medications should be reported for adverse reactions. Though the deaths could not be explicitly linked to the use of Roche medications, the company is facing consequences for their lack of attention, including reworking their comprehensive action plan for reports such as these.
The Pfizer Celebrex Scandal
Also in 2012, Pfizer came under scrutiny for deceiving the public by falsely representing a study about an arthritis drug called Celebrex. In the study, Pfizer claimed that Celebrex was safer than other anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen. The FDA proceeded to warn Pfizer, along with their co-marketers Pharmacia, that their ads were false and misleading. The company was then forced to pay over $60 million in charges for bribing government officials to approve and prescribe Pfizer products. Bribed government officials included government doctors, hospital administrators, and members of regulatory and purchasing committees in China, Russia, Italy, Bulgaria, Serbia, Kazakhstan, and Croatia.