"Is Pfizer’s Pharmacia & Upjohn the Unnamed Growth Hormone Drug Pusher?"
CORPORATE CRIME REPORTER
Is Pfizer’s Pharmacia & Upjohn the Unnamed Growth Hormone Drug Pusher?
21 Corporate Crime Reporter 38, September 28, 2007
Earlier this week, the Justice Department entered into a deferred prosecution agreement with Specialty Distribution Services, Inc., a unit of Express Scripts.
In the agreement, the company admitted that it “knowingly distributed human growth hormone to certain well-known athletes and entertainers, including a well-known athlete in Massachusetts, knowing that their intended use was athletic performance enhancement.”
The company agreed to pay a $10 million fine and cooperate with the government over three years.
But what was the drug?
And who was the supplier?
The government is mum on this.
The deferred prosecution agreement leads with this:
“Whereas, in October 2000, SDS, a wholly owned subsidiary of Express Scripts, Inc., was awarded a contract, by a pharmaceutical company, to distribute that pharmaceutical company's human growth hormone product.”
Peter Rost, a former vice president at Pfizer’s Pharmacia & Upjohn, says he knows who the “pharmaceutical company” is.
How does Rost know?
“I was the VP of the whole department at the time,” Rost says. “The person who managed this program worked for me.”
The question now is – why won’t the Justice Department name Pharmacia as the company involved?
Why the big secret?
Covington & Burling partner Ethan Posner, Pharmacia’s attorney, did not return calls seeking comment.
Neither did Ropes & Gray Partner Brien O’Connor, who represents Express Scripts.
Earlier this year, Pfizer’s Pharmacia & Upjohn Company Inc. unit pled guilty to offering a kickback in connection with the sale of its human growth hormone product.
A second Pfizer unit, Pharmacia & Upjohn Company LLC, entered into a deferred prosecution agreement for illegally promoting its human growth hormone drug Genotropin for such off-label uses as anti-aging, cosmetic use and athletic enhancement.
The companies will pay a total of $34.7 million in fines and penalties.
As a result of the plea agreement and the deferred prosecution agreement, Pfizer Inc. was granted a non-prosecution agreement.
In the past several years, human growth hormone has gained popularity with athletes and entertainers as a performance enhancement or “fountain of youth” drug.
Distribution by anyone, including a pharmacy such as SDS, or a physician, is illegal for these purposes under the federal law.
“This summer it seemed that not a week went by without a news report of some athlete receiving or using human growth hormone. It is important for the public to recognize that the use of human growth hormone for athletic or anti-aging purposes is not merely the dirty and increasingly poorly kept secret of the sports and entertainment industries,” said U.S. Attorney Michael Sullivan. “The distribution for these types of uses is illegal according to a specific federal statute. The public should also realize that human growth hormone has not been shown to be safe and effective for athletic, cosmetic or anti-aging uses, and it must not be promoted or distributed for such uses.”