It seems an odd paradox that a sector dedicated to saving lives and improving health seems so habituated to pulling dodgy tricks, but once again the pharmaceutical industry has been caught with its hand deep in the ethical cookie jar.
So serious were the misdemeanours this time that the American drugmaker Pfizer has had to agree to pay $2.3bn (£1.4bn) in the largest healthcare fraud settlement in the history of the US Department of Justice.
The company was found to have illegally promoted four drugs as “off label” therapies for conditions where such treatment had not been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration. A subsidiary of Pfizer pleaded guilty to misbranding drugs “with the intent to defraud or mislead”.
On top of the flagrant misrepresentation, Pfizer was accused of another notorious old drug-company trick: bribery. The civil settlement also relates to allegations that its representatives paid cash and offered lavish hospitality to healthcare providers to encourage them to prescribe four of the company’s drugs. These were Bextra, an anti-inflammatory drug, Geodon, an anti-psychotic drug, Zyvox, an antibiotic and Lyrica, an epilepsy treatment.