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Pfizer settles overseas bribery allegations

Agrees to pay around $60m to bring federal investigations to a close

Pfizer has agreed to pay around $60m to settle allegations that it paid kickbacks in order to encourage uptake of its products outside the US, according to a Wall Street Journal report.

The newspaper claims that the drugmaker will make the settlement by the end of the year in order to bring federal investigations into its overseas sales practices under the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act to a close.

The US Department of Justice and Securities & Exchange Commission have been probing a number of drugmakers over the alleged payment of bribes to foreign health officials in return for benefits such as the inclusion of products on formularies or the favourable interpretation of clinical data.

Earlier this year, Johnson & Johnson agreed to pay almost $80m to settle charges that it paid kickbacks to officials in Europe and Iraq in return for medical device and pharmaceutical orders, while other firms under scrutiny include Merck & Co, AstraZeneca, Bristol-Myers Squibb and GlaxoSmithKline.

For example, Merck has said it is under investigation over allegations that Schering-Plough, which it bought in 2009, paid bribes to clinics in Vietnam in return for prescribing its hepatitis treatment PegIntron (pegylated interferon alfa-2b).

Pfizer said in August that it had provided information to the DoJ and SEC regarding "potentially improper payments made by Pfizer and by Wyeth in connection with certain sales activities outside the US". The drugmaker acquired Wyeth for $68bn in 2009.

In its latest SEC quarterly report, the company confirms that it has reached agreements in principle over a settlement, but does not divulge the magnitude of the payment.

22nd November 2011

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