Wednesday, May 09, 2007

HHS Special Agents Take Aim at Pfizer

The Office of the Inspector General (OIG) of the Department of Health and Human Services is clearly taking a sudden interest into Pfizer’s activities.

A week ago I told you about a Pfizer whistleblower who accused the company of using the sales force to illegally market maraviroc, a new AIDS-drug before FDA approval. The OIG soon got involved, see e-mail from an OIG special agent here.

Yesterday that agent spoke with Pfizer’s most recent whistleblower, Jane Roe, for about an hour about the drug maraviroc and the alleged illegal premarketing. Jane claims the agent informed her that OIG has started an investigation, but she also came away with the impression that they were looking into other suspicious areas (more about that below). She says she was told that OIG couldn’t formally interview her on the record, unless she had an attorney which she had to pay for or she’d have to allow a Pfizer attorney to represent her, because she’s still on the company payroll.

I'm not sure if that makes complete sense since they already talked, but that's what she told me.

Jane’s last words to me were “The OIG will not tell me what the nature of the investigation is . . . [all is] very hush-hush. I sense others have either come forward or been contacted by the OIG and if they are former employees [they] can sing like canaries...I smell a grand jury coming, just a guess.”

But maybe Jane isn’t too far off the mark. Clearly HHS agents also have an interest in learning more about how Pfizer has conducted itself in other areas:

In fact, yesterday, quite unannounced, two HHS agents came by. (And, yes, I could prove this if needed, otherwise I wouldn’t dare make these comments . . .)

The first agent only cared about the maraviroc premarketing allegations; the other one was oh, so interested in everything Pfizer and was in particular looking for information about Celebrex and Bextra. I think the fact that I had written the story “FBI investigating Pfizer's Celebrex and Bextra? “ set them off and the second agent was particularly interested in what I’d written about one particular special agent, Beth Ann Irvine. This agent also wanted to know what I knew about “Scanlan.”

I have no idea about anyone or anything called “Scanlan,” but I’ve done some research and there is a group of companies in the healthcare area using that name. This may mean nothing, or maybe more things are going on . . . who knows.

Please note that any target for an investigation is presumed to be innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

No comments: