Pfizer Official Faces Investigation Over Support for Reimportation of Prescription Drugs
Pfizer Vice President of Marketing Peter Rost, who has publicly supported the legalization of prescription drug reimportation, on Thursday said that the company has launched an investigation into his political activities, the Washington Post reports (Craig, Washington Post, 10/1). Rost first publicly advocated reimportation in August when he posted a positive review on Amazon.com about the book "The Truth About the Drug Companies: How They Deceive Us and What To Do About It," written by former New England Journal of Medicine editor in chief Marcia Angell. Since that time, Rost has said that higher-income nations in Europe often reimport prescription drugs from nations such as Italy, Greece and Spain, which have lower prices, and that he has "never, not once, heard the drug industry, regulatory agencies, the government or anyone express any concern related to safety."
Rost said that his support for reimportation did not represent the views of Pfizer. In response, Pfizer Senior Vice president Chuck Hardwick sent a letter to members of Congress that said, "Dr. Rost has no qualifications to speak on importation, no responsibilities in this area at Pfizer, no knowledge of the information and analysis Pfizer has provided to the government on this issue and no substantive grasp of how importation may impact the safety of this nation's drug supply" (California Healthline, 9/24).
Rost said that attorneys for New York-based Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe on Wednesday asked him to "detail all of his contacts with the media and reviewed his quotes in news articles" and "noted all of his contacts with members of Congress and their staffs," the Post reports. "As a private citizen in a protected political activity, my concern was getting all these questions about my discussions with elected representatives," Rost said (Washington Post, 10/1). He added, "When an employee expresses political views, they start an inquisition. It reminds me of McCarthyism" (Rich, CongressDaily, 9/30).
Pfizer spokesperson Jack Cox said, "The meeting was professional and entirely consistent with Pfizer's policy regarding respect for employees." Seven members of Congress on Wednesday wrote to Pfizer and criticized the investigation. "If this is true, [the] interrogation, during which attorneys demanded details of private conversations with Members of Congress and their staffs, was clearly intended to intimidate Mr. Rost," the letter said. Rost said that he does not expect Pfizer to fire him for his comments on prescription drug reimportation because laws against employment discrimination based on political activities exist in New York, where he works, and New Jersey, where he lives (Washington Post, 10/1).
Several bills that would allow reimportation remain "bottled up" in the Senate, and "it seems terribly clear that congressional leaders have one intention here: protecting their heavy campaign contributors in the drug industry," a Chicago Tribune editorial states. "The lack of progress is frustrating. ... This issue deserves a vote. The stalling has to stop," the editorial concludes (Chicago Tribune, 10/1).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.