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COVID vaccine makers have a disturbing track record of criminal and civil liability

Vaccine manufacturers have a history of ‘aggressive marketing of inappropriate drugs, kickbacks to doctors, claims of testing drugs on children without proper consent,’ and more.
Mon Jun 14, 2021 - 12:04 pm EST
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June 14, 2021 (LifeSiteNews) — Politicians and corporate CEOs offering clever incentives to encourage people to roll up their sleeves for COVID-19 vaccines tend not to talk about the vaccine companies’ troubling history of illegal business practices including fraudulent marketing, patent infringement, and failing to notify consumers about toxic ingredients.

Between 1991 and 2017, Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer, and AstraZeneca — three vaccine makers whose COVID vaccines are widely used across the world — have together paid out a total of $8.62 billion to resolve civil and criminal allegations in 67 state and federal settlements. Moderna, a relative newcomer, has come under scrutiny for secrecy about its funding and the results of its clinical trials. The fraught legal history of the corporations tends to grant legitimacy to the skepticism many feel about the safety and efficacy of the vaccines they have produced.

In a December 2020 report published by U.K.-based social justice organization Global Justice Now, Director Nick Dearden and Dr. James Angel wrote that “the current pharmaceutical model is actually deeply flawed, delivering outcomes which are poor value for money for the public sector, which exacerbate global inequality and which are driven by the objective to make sky-high returns to shareholders, not a healthier population.”

The report by Global Justice Now, which has criticized the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for “unaccountably skewing the direction of international development,” went on to describe the pharmaceutical model as one which grants incentives for “the most appalling behaviour including aggressive marketing of inappropriate drugs, kickbacks to doctors, claims of testing drugs on children without proper consent, massive price hikes on essential medicines, profiteering, blocking competition, and secrecy ... Some of this behaviour has given rise to serious legal challenges and even some of the largest fines in history.”

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In a recent example of just such behavior, Johnson & Johnson is likely to pay a multi-billion dollar settlement after the Supreme Court rejected an appeal earlier this month to reverse a 2018 decision by a Missouri Circuit Court which awarded a $4.7 billion payout to 22 women who developed ovarian cancer which they claimed was caused by asbestos present in the company’s talc baby powder.

In June 2020, a Missouri Appeals Court reduced the verdict to $2.12 billion, but maintained the finding of “significant reprehensibility” in J&J’s actions, saying the pharmaceutical company failed to warn consumers of the danger.

This year, Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout was temporarily paused in April after six cases of potentially life-threatening blood clots associated with the vaccine were reported to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS).

Civil and criminal litigation for dangerous and illegal practices aren’t new for the vaccine companies.

In 2013, Johnson and Johnson was ordered to pay over $2 billion to resolve criminal and civil liability arising from allegations relating to the prescription drugs Risperdal, Invega, and Natrecor, including promotion for uses not approved as safe and effective by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and payment of kickbacks to physicians and to the nation’s largest long-term care pharmacy provider,” according to the Department of Justice.

Back in 2009, in the largest pharmaceutical settlement in the history of the U.S. Department of Justice at the time, Big Pharma titan Pfizer, which manufactured an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine last year in association with German biotechnology company BioNTech, was forced to pay a $2.3 billion settlement “to resolve criminal and civil liability arising from the illegal promotion of certain pharmaceutical products.”

According to the DOJ, Pfizer misbranded an anti-inflammatory drug which had been pulled from the market, promoting its sale “for several uses and dosages that the FDA specifically declined to approve due to safety concerns.”

Pfizer’s subsidiaries pleaded guilty to a felony for misbranding the drug “with intent to defraud or mislead,” and the company was ordered to pay a criminal fine totaling $1.3 billion, “the largest criminal fine ever imposed in the United States for any matter.” Pfizer paid out another $1 billion “to resolve allegations” related to the illegal promotion of three other drugs.

Similar to the Pfizer and Johnson and Johnson cases, fellow vaccine manufacturer AstraZeneca agreed to pay $520 million in 2010 to resolve allegations that it “illegally marketed the anti-psychotic drug Seroquel for uses not approved as safe and effective by the Food and Drug Administration.”

U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania Michael L. Levy said of the AstraZeneca settlement, “People have a legal right to know that pharmaceutical companies are marketing their drugs only for uses approved by the FDA and that their doctors’ judgment has not been affected by misinformation from a pharmaceutical company trying to boost revenues.”

Covering a wide range of criminal and civil violations, Big Pharma’s legal troubles also include patent infringement and failure to disclose information regarding government funding and clinical trials.

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In October 2020, San Diego-based Allele Biotechnology and Pharmaceuticals Inc. filed a lawsuit against Pfizer and BioNTech, claiming the companies used Allele’s patented “fluorescent protein to help analyze blood drawn from clinical trial patients without Allele’s permission.”

Last month a U.S. District Judge rejected Pfizer and BioNTech’s efforts to dismiss the action, giving the lawsuit the green light to go forward.

Meanwhile, the Gates Foundation-funded pharmaceutical corporation Moderna, which last year underwent an investigation by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) for allegedly running afoul of federal law by failing to disclose government support for its patents and applications, “has been criticised for the way it releases its research,” according to the Global Justice Now report.

According to the report, “After the company announced it had seen positive results from its Phase I trial in May 2020,” scientists “raised questions about the company’s claims, suggesting that no significant data had been released to evidence them. Moderna disclosed early results from just 8 of its 45 trial participants.”

The report cited a concern expressed by Anna Durbin, a vaccine researcher at Johns Hopkins University, who said, “It’s a bit of a concern that they haven’t published the results of any of their ongoing trials that they mention in their press release. They have not published any of that.”

Moderna’s secrecy has been called “highly problematic” by former Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) officials, and “worthy of investigation for potential market manipulation.”

In an article published by Transparency International, Professor Jillian Kohler, director of the WHO Collaborating Centre for Governance, Transparency and Accountability in the Pharmaceutical Sector, wrote, “Now more than ever, pharmaceutical companies need to uphold standards of social responsibility.” Kohler added that “shareholders are not the only ones to whom pharmaceutical companies are accountable; the general public are also key investors.”


  astrazeneca, big pharma, coronavirus vaccine, johnson & johnson, moderna, pfizer

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