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Ex Pfizer Sales Manager Indicted For Allegedly Obstructing Off-label Marketing Probe

Mar 14, 2008 | Parker Waichman LLP

An investigation of Pfizer Inc. drug marketing efforts has resulted in charges being filed against a former Pfizer sales manager.  The four count indictment alleges that the former Pfizer employee tried to obstruct an investigation into possible off-label marketing of some Pfizer medications.

The four-count indictment issued by the U.S. District Court in Massachusetts stemmed from an investigation into charges that Pfizer was marketing two drugs for unapproved uses.  Though doctors are allowed to prescribe approved drugs any way they see fit, drug companies are barred from promoting such off-label uses.  

Though the indictment does not name which Pfizer drugs were the subject of the investigation, the Pharmalot Website is reporting they were Bextra and Celebrex.

Celebrex and Bextra are COX-2 inhibitors, a class of drugs linked to an increased risk of blood clots, heart attacks and strokes. Pfizer withdrew Bextra from the market in 2005, and  Celebrex is the only COX-2 inhibitor still on the market in the United States.

Thomas Farina, 41, of Fairport, N.Y.,  supervised about 10 Pfizer sales representatives in the Brooklyn, N.Y., area.  According to the indictment, Farina is accused of  altering and deleting computer files, as well as instructing employees he supervised to do the same, despite knowing that Pfizer was under investigation for promoting two drugs for unapproved uses. The indictment said Farina had been given specific instructions to preserve all documents related to the investigation.

The indictment alleges that Farina changed the clock on his computer and then altered and re-saved files to make them appear to have been changed at an earlier time. Many of the files, which involved instructions to promote drugs at unapproved dosages or for unapproved uses, were then deleted, according to the indictment.

The indictment also alleges that Farina told others to alter and delete documents related to the investigation of off-label drug promotions. The investigation found that Farina had known that Pfizer was being probed for off-label marketing at the time he deleted the files.

If convicted, Farina would face up to 20 years in jail and a $250,000 fine on each of the four counts against him.


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