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In 2009, Pfizer was fined $2.3 billion for fraudulent marketing of an anti-inflammatory drug called Bextra. The settlement came more than a decade before the COVID-19 pandemic.
The COVID-19 public health emergency may have ended, but false claims surrounding COVID-19 vaccines persist.
A May 9 Instagram post that misspells censored said, "We were sensored and called conspiracy theories. Now, here we go!"
Underneath was a video of a person identified as Associate Attorney General Thomas Perrelli, who said, "Pfizer has agreed to pay $2.3 billion, the largest health care fraud settlement in the Department of Justice. Within that $2.3 billion is a criminal fine of $1.195 billion which makes it the largest criminal fine in history." Above him are the words, "Medical fraud. $2.3 billion." Words across the video read, "$1.195 billion Pfizer."
The video says "today" on the screen’s top right corner.
Another Instagram post that shared the same video had a caption that said, "Y’all still happy with your choices? That’s a pretty steep price to pay in criminal charges if it’s so ‘legit’ and ‘effective.’"
The posts were flagged as part of Meta’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram.)
The videos imply that the settlement just occurred and is related to COVID-19 vaccines. But the footage is from Sept. 2, 2009, a decade before the COVID-19 pandemic began. Perrelli stepped down as associate attorney general in 2012.
In 2009, the U.S. Justice Department said Pfizer and its subsidiary Pharmacia & Upjohn Co. agreed to pay $2.3 billion for illegal promotion of pharmaceutical products.
Pharmacia & Upjohn Co. pleaded guilty to a felony violation of the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act after Pfizer promoted the sale of Bextra, an anti-inflammatory drug, for uses and dosages that the Food and Drug Administration "specifically declined to approve due to safety concerns."
Pfizer pulled the drug from the market in 2005.
The company agreed to pay a $1.195 billion criminal fine, and its subsidiary agreed to forfeit $105 million.
We rate the claim that the video shows Pfizer agreed to pay $2.3 billion in a health care fraud settlement involving COVID-19 vaccines False.
Instagram post, May 9, 2023
Instagram post, May 11, 2023
Department of Justice, Justice Department Announces Largest Health Care Fraud Settlement in Its History, Sept. 2, 2009
C-SPAN, Pfizer Medical Fraud Settlement, Sept. 2, 2009
NPR, Justice Department's No. 3 Stepping Down, Jan. 11, 2012
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