Too big to nail

CNN reports on the shenanigans devised to protect Pfizer from the legal consequences of its large-scale lawbreaking:

By April 2005, when Bextra was taken off the market, more than half of its $1.7 billion in profits had come from prescriptions written for uses the FDA had rejected. But when it came to prosecuting Pfizer for its fraudulent marketing, the pharmaceutical giant had a trump card: Just as the giant banks on Wall Street were deemed too big to fail, Pfizer was considered too big to nail.

Why? Because any company convicted of a major health care fraud is automatically excluded from Medicare and Medicaid. Convicting Pfizer on Bextra would prevent the company from billing federal health programs for any of its products. It would be a corporate death sentence.

Prosecutors said that excluding Pfizer would most likely lead to Pfizer’s collapse, with collateral consequences: disrupting the flow of Pfizer products to Medicare and Medicaid recipients, causing the loss of jobs including those of Pfizer employees who were not involved in the fraud, and causing significant losses for Pfizer shareholders.

“We have to ask whether by excluding the company [from Medicare and Medicaid], are we harming our patients,” said Lewis Morris of the Department of Health and Human Services.

So Pfizer and the feds cut a deal. Instead of charging Pfizer with a crime, prosecutors would charge a Pfizer subsidiary, Pharmacia & Upjohn Co. Inc.

We are truly living in a post-republican age of American corpocracy. Not only is there no equality before the law, but it is clear that artificial persons and individuals of political influence are now regularly granted rights, privileges, and immunities that are denied to the citizenry.

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